Where and What Year is Dark Winds Set in?

Dark Winds’ is a crime drama that follows officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee as they solve a string of crimes. It begins with a double homicide, which calls for the involvement of the FBI. However, it looks like the Feds are more interested in catching the culprits of an armed robbery than to find out who killed two Native Americans. The show has a Western noir vibe and begins as a slow burn that quickly catches fire as the episodes roll on. The setting of the show is an important part of the story. If you want to know when and where it is set, and why, then we have some answers for you.

When Does Dark Winds Take Place?

The story of ‘Dark Winds’ is set in 1971. A group of thieves rob an armored truck and fly away in a helicopter to the nearby Navajo Reservation. Three weeks later, a double homicide leads officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee to investigate the events that seem connected to each other.

The characters depicted in the show first appeared in Tom Hillerman’s novel ‘The Blessing Way’ which was originally published in 1970. The plot of the first season is borrowed from the author’s third novel in the series, ‘Listening Woman’, which was published in 1978. The books have a gritty, raw, and authentic portrayal of the 1970s, and the creators of the series wanted to stay true to that. In fact, when Chris Eyre was brought on board to write for the series, he was told to make whatever changes he felt like to the characters and the plot, but to stay consistent with the timeline of the books.

The reason behind it was to shrug off all the modern forensic devices that would make it easier to conduct an investigation. The setting of the 70s would strip that off from the plot and turn the characters towards the primitive methods of investigation. This also allowed the writers to give the audience the chance to become familiar with the lay of the land by following the police officers around the land and the community. Another reason that made the creators of ‘Dark Winds’ keep the story in the 70s was to explore the history of that time and the unjust practices against Native Americans, which have been forgotten or most people don’t know about, like the sterilization of Native women.

Where Does Dark Winds Take Place?

The events in ‘Dark Winds’ take place in Navajo Nation. The first episode begins with a heist that takes place in Gallup, New Mexico. The audience becomes familiar with Monument Valley as officers Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito go back and forth, trying to put all pieces of the mystery together. Flagstaff, which is the location of the FBI office, is also referenced in the show.

Because this story is about Native Americans, the creators wanted to film in locations that would ring true to the plot. The crew turned towards the Navajo reservation to film the majority of the show. It was critical to get the location right because a lot of the story’s depth comes from its surroundings. The expanse of the vast desert and empty roads add not only a parching feeling to the atmosphere, but also add a sense of isolation, which ups the danger in the series.

Another reason that the creators of the show turned towards actual Native American locations is that they wanted more local investment in ‘Dark Winds’. While most of the cast and people in the writers’ room are Native American, the creators made sure to include the locals in the story. Native American-owned Camel Rock Studios was used for the production of the series. So, while the show aims to tell a story in a setting that has never been explored before in this manner, it was also made sure to reflect the intention of the project practically.

Read More: Where is Dark Winds Filmed?