N. Scott Momaday s The Way To Rainy Mountain provides a link into the Kiowa culture that otherwise would have been lost. His emphasis throughout the piece is concentrated mainly on his grand mother who had just passed away. Her death represents the death of the Kowa culture. She was the last to dance the Sun Dance, a kiowan dance ritual. He speaks of the advances of the U.S. Cavalry who forced the Kiowas of their land. ” they never understood the grim, unrelenting advance of the U.S. Cavalry.”(2148) “In order to save themselves, they surrendered to the soldiers at Fort Sill ” (2148) They were moved to the south-east, in Oklahoma where American Law, seeking to civilize the heathens, imposed Christianity upon the Kiowas. The U.S. did indeed play a big part in the stripping of kiowan culture.
For some it may seem amazing that the tradition of oral history still exists. Stories, History, and culture were passed on in Native-American societies traditionally from one generation to the next by means of verbal communication. In an interview with Mommaday, he describes his experience with the oral tradition:
” My father was a great storyteller and he knew many stories from the Kiowa oral tradition, says N. Scott Momaday, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and Regents Professor of English at the University of Arizona. “He told me many of these stories over and over because I loved them. But it was only after I became an adult that I understood how fragile they are, because they exist only by word of mouth, always just one generation away from extinction. That’s when I began to write down the tales my father and others had told me.” As a writer, teacher, artist and storyteller, Momaday has devoted much of his life to safeguarding oral tradition and other aspects of Indian culture (pbs.org)
by word of mouth.
safe guarding oral tradition
repetition vs written
death of grand mother
N. SCOTT MOMADAY:
The Way to Rainy Mountain
Written by Barbara Babcock for the Paperstore, Inc., December of 1999
My father was a great storyteller and he knew many stories from the Kiowa
oral tradition,” says N. Scott Momaday, a Pulitzer Prize-winning
and Regents Professor of English at the University of Arizona. “He told
many of these stories over and over because I loved them. But it was only
after I became an adult that I understood how fragile they are, because they
exist only by word of mouth, always just one generation away from
extinction. That’s when I began to write down the tales my father and others
had told me.” As a writer, teacher, artist and storyteller, Momaday has
devoted much of his life to safeguarding oral tradition and other aspects of
Indian culture (pbs.org).
For some it may seem amazing that the tradition of oral history still
exists. Certainly we may have heard the same story over and over again, of
a relative who caught their first fish, or when the toothfairy brought a
child their first coin, but imagine preserving the whole history of a people
is quite amazing that such a tradition still exists, let alone is alive and
according to the inflections, drama and humor of the storyteller, but it is
repeated often enough that the listener may begin marking their own life, or
One can imagine the same was true for Momaday in listening to the stories
of his father, who told him that the Kiowa tribe emerged from the mountains
plains. The father described how early in the nineteenth century they
migrated south to Oklahoma, where they fought
story which N. Scott Momaday, whose father was a Kiowa, tells in The Way to
Rainy Mountain. Yet the book’s impressionistic methods make it less a
history of the Kiowa than a personal meditation on that history in which
historical data, as well as his own memories (northernlight.com).
Momaday claims that on The Way to Rainy Mountain is the favorite of his
book” (Ruyle 1997). It is a work that has intrigued many critics,
particularly for its unusual three part narrative design. While much of his
attention focuses on the difficult task of reconciling ancient traditions
Indian and non-Indian worlds can be arranged into a startling mosaic of
Critics have said of The Way to Rainy Mountain, “Beautifully written,
of gentleness and dignity.” –The
N. Scott Momaday divides “The Way to Rainy Mountain” into three chapters, each of which contains a dozen or so numbered sections, each of which is divided into three parts. The first part of each numbered section tends to be a legend or a story of the Kiowa culture. However, this characteristic changes a bit as the book evolves, as well as the style and feel of the stories.
The first passage in the first numbered section describes the Kiowa creation myth. It tells that they came into the world through a hollow log. The next ones tell of a dog saving the life of a man, the story of how Tai-me became part of their culture, and other stories. These, especially in the first beginning of the first part, are stories which relate timeless tales. The events described took place long ago, though nobody knows how long. In addition, the endings of the tales would probably be described as having a good outcome. The people were created and they found friends in the physical and spiritual world. The first part of the book describes the beginning of the Kiowa culture and their development. Ursa minor stars
Towards the end of the first part, the tone of the stories changes. Instead of describing different stories each time, they begin to tell a story which continues through six numbered sections. The story relates the life of a baby who grows into the sun’s wife who then has a +child who becomes two children, who become honored people in the eyes of the Kiowa. These stories do not explain things like the creation of the people, or the reason dogs and men are friends, or the origin of Tai-me. They tell what happened to some people.
The last part of the book, the last third, is mostly narrative. Instead of telling myths to explain things, Momaday tells stories which relate events without any significant outcome. Also, in contrast to the first part of the book, the outcomes seem to be bad ones, or at least not fulfilling. They describe, for a large part, people whom he knows existed and were related to or were friends of his family. One story tells about Mammedaty, who heard someone whistling to him, but could not find the person. Another tells about how Mammedaty was having trouble with a horse, so he shot an arrow at it, but missed and killed another horse. These endings do not leave the reader or listener with a good feeling about the story.
These changes in the stories show an important development in the character of the Kiowa and of Momaday himself. As time progresses, Momaday learns more about his culture. The Kiowa begin as distant detached people with outlandish myths and extraordinary happenings. However, as time passes and his journey to Rainy Mountain progresses, the Kiowa become more close to home. The legends he starts with become stories of his family and their friends at the end. He tells of Mammedaty and Aho, a relative and friend. There are many stories he can relate about each of them. This shows that Momaday has found the true meaning of the Kiowa legends. While the myths remain supernatural and explain key points of their being, the stories are about people. While some stories may not be completely true, they are based on the past of the tribe.
The stories of the last part do not describe dogs or spiders talking to people, or the sun wedding a woman. They describe things which are easily conceivable, even to people who do not understand the Kiowa’s beliefs. The first passage of the last numbered section even describes the location of something by saying that it is “East of my grandmother’s house.” Momaday has become part of the Kiowa, telling stories which have been told only a few times before, or possible never at all, where they can join the others. Connect past with present
Developed by Lifetime Learning Systems