The series dark winds, by Graham Roland on AMC+, begins in 1971 in Gallup, New Mexico, on the edge of the Navajo Indian reservation (Navajo Nation or Navajoland, 71,000 square kilometers of overwhelmingly arid land), the largest in the United States, with the violent assault on an armored car, automatic weapons, gunfire at close range and the escape of the robbers in a helicopter. Next it jumps to a mysterious double murder (of two Navajos), already inside the reservation, with ritual components: one of the victims has had his eyes gouged out and the other is a young traditional healer who appears to have been scared to death. The only witness is the girl’s aunt, an elderly, blind and traumatized medicine woman. Both cases are being mixed up while the Navajo Tribal Police (the most famous Native agency along with the Oglala Lakota Nation Police Department) and the FBI investigate. From the outset, the parameters through which the story will move are clear: the contemporary world, its values ​​and crimes confronted with native mysticism, the world of Navajo beliefs, including their own concept of evil. The tension between the two elements intersection, modernity and tradition, form the basis of the plot of dark winds.

We are in familiar and very stimulating territory, even exciting: the premises of what could be described as a whole section of the detective genre, the police with Native Americans do not go coppery, if we can call it that, part of what was called detective western and that is to bring the story of a criminal investigation into the classic settings of the American West, its characters and landscapes. In this specific subgenre, particular protagonists are the Indian reservation, an enclosed space with its own characteristics, traditions and laws, and the native police officers responsible for maintaining order there in the face of threats from within and without. Such remarkable films as the extraordinary wind flow (2017) by Taylor Sheridan about the rape and death of a young Indian woman on the Shoshone and Arapaho Reservation in Wyoming (in a freezing climate that is the back side of the Wyoming desert dark winds) and in which a bug hunter, a Miami FBI investigator and the tribal police try to solve the crime. EITHER thunder heartby Michael Apted (1992), starring an FBI agent (Val Kilmer) with Native American blood (and what blood, perhaps a warrior reincarnation from Crazy Horse) who investigates the murder of a leader on a Lakota reservation similar to Pine’s recreates Ridge in the context of the turmoil created by the American Indian Movement (AIM) and discovers both a conspiracy and her own roots.

Kiowa Gordon and Jessica Matten in Dark Winds

dark winds, with no less than Robert Redford and George RR Martin in production and a six-chapter first season, with another due to follow in 2023, is the adaptation of a series of very popular crime novels by Tony Hillerman (1925-2008). , is considered New Mexico’s most famous author. Hillerman, a Silver Star and Purple Heart in World War II, was white but raised by Potawatomi Indians in Oklahoma, so he grew up immersed in Native American culture. Consisting of 18 original titles (continued by Hillerman’s daughter Anne Hillerman), the series began in 1970 with The Way of Blessing, shows two members of the Navajo tribal police, Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn (who showed up first) and Agent Jim Chee (later incorporated), both natives investigating cases affecting the indigenous community. It’s tempting to say that a Navajo detective has to be good at wielding Occam’s razor.

The first season of the series, generically titled from Hillerman’s fifth novel, dark windsactually adapts material from two others of the novels, particularly the third, listening woman (1978) and elements of the fourth, people of darkness (1980). The novels, including eight Storm of Darkness and the city of shadowswere published in Spanish between 1980 and 2001 by different publishers such as Olañeta, Versal, Júcar and especially Grijalbo, they already had film and television versions, like the film coyote is waiting (2003) – about the tenth part – in which Lieutenant Leaphorn was played by the ubiquitous Cherokee actor Wes Studi – and pKinwalker —the seventh— produced for television in 2002.

dark windssuspenseful and very interesting in its dual story of the criminal investigation (unfolded in various plots) and the customs and beliefs (and superstitions) of the Navajo people, it works great and in that it is definitive alongside the spectacular scenery of Monument Valley and the Four Corners , and the environment, with surreal and even paranormal influences in the wake twin peaks Y true beagle, the strength of the main characters, those Leaphorn and Chee, played by Zahn McClarnon and Kiowa Gordon respectively on the series. Gordon, who despite his name is not Kiowa but a German whose mother is Hualapai (native of the mountains of northwestern Arizona), played the werewolf boy Dusk. Here he puts a sensual body à la Marlon Brandon at the service of a character who is a police officer of Navajo origin who left the reservation as a child and returns as reinforcements for the tribal force, but with something else in store.

As for McClarnon, with a touch of Wes Studi, he is the son of an Irish father and a Hunkpapa Sioux mother and visited his grandparents on the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana. He learned Comanche in 2017 for his role as the chief of the tribe on the series The son, about Philip Meyer’s great novel. Much of the Indian vibe dark winds, which seems to be made of sand, flies, mezcal, and dead dogs, is laid by him, McClarnon, with his thrifty thrift, dry, leathery, and always circumspect face, and lean figure, reflecting the aridity of the reservation’s landscape and his difficult living conditions. A third protagonist also appearing in the novels is the priceless tribal police sergeant Bernadette Manuelito, played by Jessica Matten, a mix of Canadian and Eurasian Métis-Cree. how does it look dark winds Navajo is actually a real one pow pow of tribes. The Navajos, on the other hand, have always given much of themselves, from Manuelito (the brave historical chief pursued by Colonel Miles) to the code talker.

Zahn McClarnon as Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn in Dark Winds.
Zahn McClarnon as Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn in Dark Winds.

A very rich cast of supporting actors spices up the plate with characters such as a brutal Native American (Seminole in the original novels), a murderer and a disfigured man associated with an Indian liberation movement, the Buffalo Society; a humble Franciscan priest, an FBI agent with his own bill of lading, the reservations doctor (Leaphorn’s wife), a bootlegger selling souvenirs and kachinas, and a creepy Navajo witch. Witchcraft, so relevant in the Navajo worldview (with the dangerous skinwalker either yes naaldlooshii confronted with medicine men and women) plays a fundamental role in the series, attributed to the classic play on the supernatural that works so well with Native Americans in the police force (eg thunder heart). As one character says dark winds, “If you’re in a reserve among people who believe in ghosts, believe it too.” Although the series had the collaboration of the Navajo community, its treatment of indigenous spiritual life, rites, and taboos has been the subject of some criticism. In any case, the layperson learns a lot, including how to greet in Navajo: yes by eh.

Highlighting the series’ reflection on the sociological reality of Indian life on the reservations, with its poverty (life expectancy is very low and unemployment rate extremely high), addictions and violence. Indian women are four times more likely to be raped and assaulted than the US average, 10 times more likely to be murdered, and crimes and disappearances often remain unsolved. The ecological dimension could not be missing either, with a contamination of the ancestral land by a piece of land.

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