Notes to Introduction
1Sometimes it's not all that simple. I'm not so sure it makes a lot of sense to call Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park a Native American text, even though Smith is Pueblo by birth; conversely, I'd have a problem with excluding the writing of Barre Toelken or Keith Basso from consideration in a course dealing with Native oral and written traditions, even if they were both born Anglos. But matters become hopelessly fuzzy when we accept, for instance, a definition like Momaday's that "We are what we imagine" ("The Man Made of Words" 167)--a proposition that has been used as an enfranchisement for apparently no end of New Age nonsense in recent years as well as, more insidiously even if equally naively, a license for literary cultural misappropriation (see Silko, "An Old-Time Indian Attack Conducted in Two Parts," and Hobson, "The Rise of the White Shaman as a New Version of Cultural Imperialism").
2I take it to be one of the crueller critical ironies of my field that the idea of centering (and the attendant attention to marginality), so close to the heart of Native creative vision, should happen to be at the same time one of the more useful ideas (at least as persuasive as the idea of a mainstream) for critics bent on marginalizing Native literatures--not to mention the works of other writers categorizable as members of socially or politically decentered groups.
3I am indebted here for a phrase used by Scarberry-García in her Introduction to her Landmarks of Healing, in which she notes that (in addition to the postwar writers and works I've already mentioned) "many contemporary American novels, such as those by Bellow, Kesey, and Updike, are unfulfilled `narratives of illness,' according to critic Richard Ohmann" (1).
4In his Foreword to Scarberry-García's Landmarks of Healing, Wiget makes a very similar point:
Like other contemporary Euroamerican literary traditions, much Native American writing acknowledges alienation and cynicism as the starting point for fiction. Native American writing, however, is attracting more and more readers, precisely because much of it does not accept the brokenness of the present world as an immutable condition of things, but invokes deeper patterns of order and meaning, often rooted in the themes and images of tribal oral traditions, as a means of restoring wholeness. (xi)
Wiget contends that these "deeper patterns of order" are encoded in Navajo healing ceremonies--that is, in socioculturally specific pretexts, and I think Scarberry-García demonstrates clearly how this is so. My point is that such ceremonies themselves take particular geographies as their pretexts. In the cases of these three novels, both the novel as text and the ceremonies as texts are validated by the land.
5Critics before me have made this connection in the cases of individual writers. For instance, in City of Words, a brilliant survey of American fiction 1945-70, British critic Tony Tanner notes that in Barth's early fictions The Floating Opera and The End of the Road, "We find something approaching an absence or attenuation of environment: those things which usually circumscribe consciousness and with the direct pressure of their presence help to condition thought have receded or been excluded and in the resultant cleared ground the mind runs free. . . . signs tend to become more important than their referents. . . . any established notions of the relationship between word and world are lost or called in doubt" (240). Tanner then goes on to suggest some such "attenuation of environment" as a precondition for the kind of freedom so desperately sought by the protagonists of postwar American fiction-- an act of provisional self-liberation that, he contends, vitiates the relevance of these otherwise sometimes "realistic" fictions.
6As I suggested earlier, this act of cultural (re-)identification is often taken to be the quintessential event of the novel--a bias which has ironically kept much Native literature marginalized, since this approach requires the reader to be familiar enough with the cultural tradition to understand how it validates the experience of the protagonist.
Notes to Chapter 1: The Function of the Landscape of Ceremony
1In The Delicacy and Strength of Lace 27-28.
2For a fuller discussion of this term (coined originally by T. S. Eliot) as it is used in the context of literary regionalism, see Watkins, esp. 8-11.
3I have in mind here, for instance, Todd Andrews' dictum in the "piano-tuning" section of The Floating Opera about "versions of the case," or Borges' "games with infinity," or Robbe-Grillet's amusement in The Voyeur with Mathias' absurdly futile programs for selling his watches and his equally futile attempts to fix a "point of reference" outside his own imagination, or Skipper's several versions of his heart's experience in Hawkes' Second Skin. The proposition that all pattern is a figment of imagination is, I think, the essential proposition underlying postwar "postmodernist" thinking and literary creative vision.
4Several critics have noted the three-level structure of the novel. Allen's analysis of the novel as a healing ceremony ("The Psychological Landscape of Ceremony") talks of "sickness in individuals, societies and landscapes" (10); however, her analysis of how those three elements of the novel are brought into healing alignment treats "landscape" as a feminizing spirit of place rather than treating place in any specificity. Sands also alludes to the three-level structure of the ceremony of this novel ("untangling painful memories, understanding ancient rituals, and participating in the present must merge the ongoing myth of the people" ["Preface" 3]) and further suggests that this "participation in the present," which in this novel she sees as healing "the breach between Tayo and the land and its creatures," may constitute a characteristic of Native American literature: "Land and nature, myth and ritual, cyclic patterns and continuum, ceremony and the sacredness of storytelling are all basic elements that distinguish the Indian mode of literature from any other" (4). Mitchell, too, says the novel "can be viewed as three simultaneous planes that interweave throughout" (27), though her three planes ("human plane," "socio/cultural plane," and "myth/ritual plane") make no special place for the function of the landscape in the novel.
5Wiget, for instance, groups Ts'eh with the Night Swan and Descheeny's wife as "Earth Woman/Yellow Woman figures" and later says of the Ts'eh of Mount Taylor that "she may in fact be a mountain spirit" (Native American Literature 88); Copeland (who makes no distinction between the Ts'eh of Mount Taylor and the Ts'eh of Dripping Springs) speaks of Tayo's "sense of her identity as a nature spirit, a mountain spirit or ka'tsina" ("Black Elk Speaks and Leslie Silko's Ceremony" 166). Allen sees Ts'eh as a version of "Reed Woman, Spider Woman, Yellow Woman, on and on" (Sands and Rouff 67), and Mitchell seems to concur (33). Lincoln identifies the Ts'eh Tayo encounters at "the novel's center" as a "spirit sister of Yellow Woman [Kotsinininako], whom the Laguna call `the mother of all of us,'" and further identifies this figure with the kurena spirits who are associated with sunrise, said to live in the northeast (Native American Renaissance 234). I think Lincoln's identification is too precise, though: Tayo's Ts'eh never once in the novel enters Tayo's vision from the northeast, nor is he ever moving northeast when he meets her; and the only time Tayo's ceremony takes him northeast of Laguna village is when he moves that way at the end of the novel to witness Emo's witchery up in "the hills northwest of Cañoncito" (241); there, "The headlights appeared suddenly from the northeast" (248).
6The relationship of the figure of the Night Swan to the figure of Ts'eh, and of both to Ts'its'tsi'nako of the frame story, is treated very convincingly by both Allen (The Sacred Hoop 121-22) and Lincoln (Native American Renaissance 240-41). Both Allen and Lincoln point out the recurrence of blue imagery in the depictions of both figures. To their lines of argument I would add that we have at least one other formal reason to connect the figures of Ts'eh and the Night Swan to the figures of the generative sisters in the frame story: their names. I have already suggested that "Ts'eh" can be read (and heard) as a shortened form of "Ts'its'tsi'nako"; perhaps we can hear, in the name "Night Swan," an Anglicized version of Thought-Woman's sister, "Nau'ts'ity'i." (In the version of the "Laguna Thought Woman Story" Allen cites, these two names are spelled, respectively, "Tse che nako" and "Naotsete.")
7One of the elements that floats unconnected in Tayo's fevered consciousness as the novel opens is "the singing, . . . two words again and again, `Y volveré'" (6). This memory fragment presumably derives from the time Tayo visits the Night Swan on Josiah's behalf: as he ascends the staircase to her room, he hears "A scratchy Victrola . . . playing guitars and trumpets; a man sang sad Spanish words. `Y volveré' were the only words Tayo could understand" (97). The words are a promise ("and I will return") delivered upon leaving. That the power of regeneration lying behind the figure of the Night Swan does keep this promise is, in part, the contention of this study.
8Arguably, the sequence of Tayo's motion is also predicated by the pattern of Betonie's ceremony, because the route of recovery (as Silko paints it on pages 141-42) involves moving succesively from the "dark mountain" to the blue, yellow, and finally white mountains. In the novel, the Chuska Mountains (where Betonie performs his ceremony) are characterized as "a thick powdery black" (145), while Mount Taylor is characteristically blue (100, 128); the yellow mountain of the ceremony then has its Fifth World analog in the form of Pa'to'ch Butte, a formation of primarily yellow sandstone (220), while the white mountain would seem to be the villages of Laguna (both Cubero and Old Laguna), constructed out of white gypsum sandstone (104, 256). The traditional Keres name for where the People live (and have lived) is Kush Kutret, "the white village," and one of the seven present-day Laguna settlements, the one located closest to Acoma land to the west, is called Casa Blanca, "white house."
9For instance, on page 178: "`The sky is clear. You can see the stars tonight.' She spoke without turning around. He felt a chill bristle across his neck, and it was difficult to swallow the mouthful of stew. He had watched the sky every night, looking for the pattern of stars the old man drew on the ground that night. Late in September he saw them in the north." Here, the lady's ability to speak Tayo's own mind spooks him because it implies that she is somehow in league with Betonie.
10To get to the cattle, it turns out, Tayo follows "the trail [that] was parallel to the top of the orange sandrock mesa" (184), a trail that becomes so narrow that his mare cannot possibly turn around, much less stray off the configured path; at the place where this trail debouches, Tayo proceeds "west . . . toward the cerros, gently rounded hills of dark lava rock which were covered with a thin crust of topsoil and grass" (185), finally gaining direct access to the "blue" summitry of Mount Taylor as he moves onto "the land [that] ascended into a solid pine forest" (185), the place referred to as "North Top." Whatever other significance Ts'eh's stones have, they also help to orient Tayo in, and on, the land itself.
11One way to account for this special sense of time that Tayo experiences in these lines is to call his experience a moment of deconstructive awareness, during which the consciously held fiction that differentiates subject from object, self from other, is suspended, allowing him a holistic rather than sequential vision of the relationship between moments of experience (or more precisely between the separable memories of those experiences). In effect, this new quality of vision re-frames all of Tayo's experience, both remembered and immediate, as a single event rather than as a sequence of (time-differentiated) events.
12Understanding how mountain lion and the woman of Tse-pi'na are both, in this sense, avatars of the spirit of this mountain can do much to refresh, by reframing, one's rereading of that loveliest of Silko's poems, "Survival: Indian Song" (Storyteller 35-37)--the last line of which, "Running on the edge of the rainbow," provides the title for a videotape of Silko's readings ("Running on the Edge of Rainbow: Laguna Stories and Poems. With Leslie Marmon Silko," a videotape in the series Words and Place: Native Literature from the American Southwest, Larry Evers, Project Director [New York: Clearwater, 1978]).
13The fence riders will catch up with neither the lion nor, once they have lost sight of him, the lion's human doppel. Mount Taylor, in the form of the lady Tse-pi'na working her storm blanket medicine, has taken care of all that:
The snow was covering everything, burying the mountain lion's tracks and obliterating his scent. The white men and their lion hounds could never track the lion now. . . . He smiled. Inside, his belly was smooth and soft, following the contours of the hills and holding the silence of the snow. He looked back at the way he had come: the snowflakes were swirling in tall chimneys of wind, filling his tracks like pollen sprinkled in the mountain lion's footprints. (205)
14Bell, I think, provides the best single analysis of Betonie's ceremony, both in terms of its ritual antecedent (identified as the Navajo "Coyote Transformation rite in the Myth of Red Antway, Male Evilway") and in terms of its relationship to Tayo's experience on Mount Taylor. An excellent study of how individual consciousness and mythic patterning come into constellated congruence, Bell's essay takes no particular account, however, of the geographical realism that, I contend, is crucial to the healing efficacy of Tayo's Mount Taylor experience.
15For maps detailed enough to locate the specific geological and topographical details mentioned in this paragraph and in other parts of this chapter, see the U.S. Department of the Interior Geographical Survey's quadrangle (7.5 minute) series of topographical maps for Valencia County, New Mexico. The plats "Acoma Pueblo Quadrangle," "Marmon Ranch Quadrangle," and "South Butte Quadrangle" cover the area treated in this paragraph.
16Emergence motifs are, of course, vital elements of the cultural myths of many peoples. However (and unlike, say, the Eden of the Judeo-Christian origin myth), people in most of the Pueblo cultures can point very exactly to the spot where the People are said to have emerged from the Fourth World into this one. Given the structure of Ceremony, one may be tempted to assume that in Laguna tradition the Emerging Place would fall either on Mount Taylor (as, for instance, Lincoln does [Native American Renaissance 234]) or in the immediate vicinity of Pa'to'ch, where Tayo comes "closest" to Ts'eh. Silko states that in Laguna tradition the Emergence Place (sipapu) is "located slightly north of the Paguate village" ("Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination" 91) --i.e., in the vicinity of the village of Seboyeta (where, incidentally, state highway 237 simply ends in the front yard of the "Cebolleta" Post Office building), a site a good 30 miles from the Mount Taylor (northwest) corner of Laguna land and at nearly the dead center of the northern boundary of the Laguna Reservation lands. She also adds a caution about identifying Emergence Places too rigidly:
. . . the Pueblo stories about the Emergence and Migration are not to be taken as literally as the anthropologists might wish. Prominent geographical features and landmarks which are mentioned in the narratives exist for ritual purposes, not because the Laguna people actually journeyed south for hundreds of years from Chaco Canyon or Mesa Verde, as the archaeologists say, or eight miles from the site of the natural springs at Paguate to the sandstone hilltop at Laguna. (91)
Consistent with Silko's words about the function of Emergence motifs, and Lincoln's claim notwithstanding, I think it is best to read the novel as a post-WWII version of an older ceremony and to concede that, in this version of the Story, the "Emerging Place" of what Tayo seeks--the place where the form of regeneration calling itself "Ts'eh" appears to him--is to be found precisely where Tayo finds it, and her, at the place called Dripping Springs.
17For what it's worth, the place Silko has selected to be the setting of this part of the novel, designated "Dripping Springs" on GS maps, features not just one but four "springs." It is a doubled canyon running off the south face of the mesa; the west side canyon contains one very active spring, while the east side canyon contains three, one of which is particularly active. Silko seems to have had in mind the spring of the west-side canyon as the "Emerging Place" of Tayo's ceremony: no willow grows immediately beside any of the east-side springs, and "swallows inside their round mud nests, making high pitched noises" (221) are to be found only around the cliff face of the west-side spring.
18Compare the analogous moments of panoramic vision Tayo experiences twice previously: in the Chuska Mountains just prior to Betonie's ceremony (139), and then on the "blue" mountain when he is situated geographically right above the spot where he encounters the humanized avatar of Mount Taylor (184-85). Both of these moments, in turn, recall the special pre-WW II feeling of limitless identity with the land and its possibilities that Tayo remembers having experienced "when he and Rocky had climbed Bone Mesa, high above the valley southwest of Mesita" (19). This feeling, which can be acquired only from such a panoramic view of the land, is one of the crucial components of healing vision--not only in Ceremony but also in House Made of Dawn and The Death of Jim Loney.
19I have in mind, of course, the hunter (who is identified with the spirit of the mountain lion by the hat he wears) Tayo meets on his way back down Mount Taylor. Like Ts'eh, he has that pan-Indian, or at least a pan-Southwest Indian, cast of character: Tayo recognizes the chant he sings on page 206 as a Laguna deer song, like the hunter's rifle an "old one" that "works real good. That's the main thing"; his second song, though, "sounded like a Jemez song, or maybe one from Zuni"  (or maybe one so fundamentally "good" it would work at Jemez and Zuni, and anywhere in between).
20In a 1976 Sun Tracks interview, Silko characterized these forces this way:
In the novel, I've tried to go beyond any specific kind of Laguna witchery or Navajo witchery. . . . I try to begin to see witchery as a sort of metaphor for the destroyers or the counter force, that force which counters vitality and birth. That counter force is destruction and death. . . . Another name for the counter forces are the manipulators. (Copeland and Carr 32)
21In a 1980 interview published in the University of Arizona's student literary magazine Persona, Silko reiterates the sense of the bomb's significance that she attributes to Tayo in the novel:
SILKO: The day after the first bomb was detonated, if you want to try to look for a single instance, seems to me the big dividing point for human beings.
PERSONA: Is that why you chose the post World War II era as the setting for Ceremony and not, say, the Korean War, or Viet Nam?
SILKO: Right. Because after that day all human beings, whether you were a Hopi who believed in traditional ways or whether you were a Madison Avenue Lutheran, all human beings faced the same possible destruction. . . . When you can destroy the entire planet and make it uninhabitable for life for thousands and thousands of years, that's a big change. That's a change like never ever before. (Fitzgerald 34-35)
22We are told that Tayo wakes up "at the foot of a rocky little hill covered with cholla" and that all around "the hills were covered with dark lava rock" (241)--terrain that recalls the setting of Betonie's story of witchery's origins, "up in the lava rock hills / north of Cañoncito" (133). Such a formation, labelled Mesa del Lobo ("wolf mesa") on GS maps, lies about 10 miles both east of Paguate village and north of the Jackpile fence.
23This is how Silko tells it in the novel. In fact, Jackpile mining operations didn't commence until after WWII had ended: see Silko, "The Fourth World."
24Compare the passage, already cited, on pages 219-20, as well as Ts'eh's words on page 231. I take the "they" in this passage to refer specifically to those relatives we have just seen co-occupying Tayo's mind (Josiah, Grandmother, and Rocky) and to refer more generally, by this moment in the evolution of Tayo's sense of his identity, to the People collectively; I take the true subject of this passive voice construction (that is, the "agent" of the love referred to) to be Tayo, as well as Josiah/ Grandmother/Rocky, as well as the People, as well as the "she" of the second sentence of the passage (vide infra).
Notes to Chapter 2: The Function of the Landscape of House Made of Dawn
1The Names 142; for an earlier, slightly differently worded version of this statement, see "What Will Happen to the Land?"
2He says, for instance, in an interview with Bruchac: "The Indians of the Southwest, and the Pueblo people, for example, and the Navajos with whom I grew up, they don't live on the land; they live in it, in a real sense. And that is very important to me, and I like to evoke as best I can that sense of belonging to the earth" (14). See also the interviews published in Sun Tracks (Evers 19) and Puerto del Sol (Abbott 22); as well as Momaday's "The Man Made of Words" 52; "A First American Views His Land" 18; and "Native American Attitudes to the Environment" 84.
3For a good analysis of the emergence motif as it relates to the novel, see Larry Evers' "Words and Place." Recall, too, that the dawn/ emergence motif, encoded in the word "Sunrise," functions as the most immediate frame for the narrative text in Ceremony (4, 262).
4The lines are from the so-called "Night Chant," part of a Navajo curing ceremony first transcribed and published by Washington Matthews in 1902. (On Momaday's adaptation of Matthews' translation, see Watkins 167-70.) This is, of course, the chantway that Ben uses in his sing for Abel in Part 3, "The Night Chanter," and so its use here in the prologue foreshadows the important role to be played in this novel by non-Jemez but still Native American visions of the function of landscapes in healing ceremonies.
5N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 1. Citations are to the Harper & Row-Perennial (paperback) edition, which carries the same pagination.
6"Walatowa" is the Native (Towan) word for the village called "Jemez Pueblo" on most maps today. The word walatowa has been translated variously as "village of the bear" (Evers, "Words and Place" n. 18, citing Frederick W. Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians), "the people in the canyon" (Schubnell 106, citing Tom Bahti, Southwestern Indian Tribes), and "at the pueblo in the canyon" (Dutton 7).
7Running has long been a highly regarded activity at Jemez. According to Sando, some of the "favorite topics" of winter stories at Jemez (prior to the advent of television) were "the victories and heroics of the outstanding runners" of Jemez; Sando devotes an entire chapter of his book Nee Hemish to the topic (Chapter 11, "Track Town U.S.A." 181-95). For Sando on the two annual ceremonial races at Jemez, see p. 193.
8Relying on tenuous internal evidence in the novel, Evers contends that "through Francisco, Abel is a direct descendant of the Bahkyush" ("Words and Place" 215); Evers appears to believe Francisco is the product of Fray Nicolás and a Bahkyush woman, perhaps the mother of the "Pecos witch" Porcingula with whom Francisco later has an affair. See also Kerr 175, and McAllister, "Be a Man, Be a Woman" 21. Both Evers and Kerr cite Porcingula's taunt ("Francisco was his name, and had he not been sired by the old consumptive priest?" ). I find the suggestion that Francisco is the illegitimate son of the old priest hard to swallow (since I assume that Porcingula is merely teasing Francisco here); my own sense of Francisco's heritage derives, rather, from evidence external to the novel. In The Names, Momaday talks autobiographically about the Tosa family, who lived across the road to the north of the day school where his mother and father taught, and in particular about "the old man Francisco Tosa" who herded sheep and greeted Momaday daily in Spanish, a "medicine man" who, says Momaday, "personified some old, preeminent ethic of pueblo life" (127). If "Tosa" is derived from "Toya," it is, according to Sando, genealogically a Pecos surname (150). Regardless of etymologies, I think that the figure of Francisco could very well be modelled on the grandfather Francisco Tosa, and that Francisco is designed expressly to "personif[y] some old, preeminent ethic of pueblo life," specifically life at Walatowa.
9See, for instance, Aithal 161, Billingsley 81, and Trimmer 79.
10In an interview with Bruchac, Momaday acknowledges his long-standing interest in the "vision quest" motif common among Plains cultures (17). One of the usual outcomes of a traditional vision quest is the acquisition of an animal or spirit helper (see my discussion of this motif in the following chapter). That Abel, raised at Jemez, should acquire such a vision suggests the strong pan-Indian cast of Momaday's creative vision.
11See, for instance, Oleson, Bernard A. Hirsch, Wiget, Native American Literature 85, and Trimmer.
12Barry (285) and Velie ("Cain and Abel"), among others, maintain this position. McAllister ("Incarnate Grace and the Paths of Salvation in House Made of Dawn") sees them both as representatives of spiritual sterility. Like Hylton, who sees the figure of the albino as a "figure of evil" (62), Billingsley concludes from this identification of the albino that "the killing of the albino is a proper and healthy act. It restores harmony to the community and fecundity to the earth; the essential balance between good and evil has been preserved" (86); the error of thus accounting the albino as a purely evil force is that, in the novel, both Abel and Francisco are excluded from the harmony of the village subsequent to the albino's death at Abel's hands. According to Momaday, from Abel's point of view the albino "is neither white [that is, Anglo] nor a man in the usual sense of those words. He is an embodiment of evil like Moby Dick, an intelligent malignity" (quoted by Schubnell 97); as I've tried to emphasize, though, Abel's vision of the albino (and the land more broadly speaking) is flawed, and his healing depends on his coming to understand the snake spirit as it should be understood in the broader context of the life of the land itself.
13Several critics of the novel who have dealt with the albino's role identify Abel's albino antagonist with the albino mentioned in the journal of Fray Nicolás V. and named there Juan Reyes Fragua (see, for instance, Velie ["Cain and Abel"], Larry Evers ["Words and Place"], Raymond, and Trimmer). Some of these critics gloss over the problem this reading creates (viz., that a man born in early 1875 appears "large, lithe," "thickset, powerful and deliberate in his movements" 70 years later and effortlessly bests "seven or eight men and as many boys" at the rooster pull); others invoke the Jemez tradition of witchcraft to explain the albino's power. Oleson suggests that perhaps Abel's antagonist is a son of Juan Reyes Fragua (78, n. 6). Though Velie discounts it in "Nobody's Protest Novel" (56), I tend to hold with McAllister's thesis, which contends that the albino is, along with Fray Nicolás and Nicolás teah-whau, one in a succession of "witches" recurring throughout the implied chronology of the novel ("Be a Man, Be a Woman"); however, McAllister seems to be arguing that the "evil" manifested in these three figures originates in Fray Nicolás's moral corruption, whereas I would argue that what "possesses" all three of these figures is best understood as a spirit indigenous to the place called Walatowa (the "Snake Spirit" referred to in Ellis, et al.). I also reject the notion that this spirit is rightly understood as "evil": it appears evil to Abel (as it does to Father Olguin), but that appearance is a measure of the failure of their vision rather than an attribute of the spirit itself.
14Though I argue that finally we can
(and should) look to the land, rather than to Jemez cultural tradition, to
validate Abel's experience in this novel, still I think it worth noting that Abel's rejection of snake
energy would be
incompatible with Jemez traditionalism. Apropos of the latter, Ellis lists 21 religious societies at
Jemez, seven of
which are "concerned with war, protection, and hunting" and the other fourteen of which are
"directed primarily at
curing, rainmaking, weather control, and fertility"; included in the latter group are the "Jemez
"Pecos Eagle Catchers," and "Snake" societies (14). Ellis speculates that the Snake Society at
Jemez may have been
acquired from Hopi around the turn of the Eighteenth Century. In 1694, during the drought- and
period of reconquest after the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680, "the Tsuntash Society, carefully carrying
their eagle plume
fetish, left New Mexico to live with the First Mesa Hopi"; a decade later "some of the Jemez
refugees in Hopi . . .
returned to reestablish their own village in Jemez Canyon," while "sixteen families remained
longer with the Hopis,
the other 113 Jemez at Hopi returning, slowly, in 1716" (13-14), bringing with them a body of
ceremonies adapted from Hopi snakework. If Ellis is correct, then the Snake Society's tenure at
Jemez predates by
about a century the advent of the Bahkyush (Pecos) Eagle Watchers Society at Jemez. Again
according to Ellis, "The
Snake cult is widespread among the Keres. The respect in which the society is held is reflected in
two Snake men of
Jemez necessarily being members of the Cacique Society (to the ire of some conservatives) and in
the Snake leader
taking charge of the major ceremony of installing officers for all the Jemez societies when the War
customarily officiates, has died and himself must be replaced" (27-28). (Elsewhere, Ellis explains
that the Cacique
Society is one of three that "concentrate primarily on matters of fertility" .)
As possibly further evidence of the indigenousness of the snake spirit to the life of Jemez culture, several critics have pointed to a passage in Fray Nicolás's diary that would seem to implicate Francisco, the Jemez Longhair figure in the novel, as a member of the Snake Society (the entry so cited is the one dated "17th. October. 1888": "He [Francisco] is one of them & goes often in the kiva & puts on their horns & hides & does worship that Serpent which even is the One our most ancient enemy" ). My own sense of this passage is that a character like Fray Nicolás might well use a term like "Serpent" metonymically to conjure the idea of "evil," and thus I think it farfetched to take this passage as strong evidence that Francisco is being cast by Momaday as a literal Snake Society priest. Even so, it would appear from all this that Abel's bias towards eagle over snake is as incompatible with Jemez cultural tradition as it is with the life of the land itself.
15These are facts of which Momaday was aware. In a paragraph in The Names designed to specify the geographical situs of Jemez, Momaday mentions the San Diego Canyon; San Ysidro and the S.R. 44 turnoff there; the "long blue mesa" demarcating the east side of the Jemez Valley; and, to the west (along with a red mesa containing "the ancient ruins of Zia" and "the lone blue mountain in the northwest" where Francisco's bearhunt is set), "the white sandstone cliffs in which is carved the old sacred cave of the Jemez Snake Clan" (121-22). Eagles are mentioned nowhere in this passage; they are, however, mentioned in the very next paragraph of that book, in association with both clear vision and the Valle Grande:
You see things in the high air that you do not see farther down in the lowlands. . . . in the high country all objects bear upon you, and you touch hard upon the earth. The air of the mountains is itself an element in which vision is made acute; eagles bear me out. From my home of Jemez I could see the huge, billowing clouds above the Valle Grande, how, even motionless, they drew close upon me and merged with my life. (122)
16In 1921 Parsons recorded three living albinos and one recently deceased albino infant at Jemez (49-50). According to Watkins, "for some reason the incidence of albinism [at Jemez] is extraordinarily high" (141). See also Dickinson-Brown 32.
17In Parsons (18, Plate 5) there is a drawing of the altar of the Eagle Society (not to be confused with either the Pecos or the Jemez Eagle Watchers Societies); it features, in addition to figures of the sun and moon below and eagle feathers above, two large horned (water) serpents, and I think it offers strong graphic evidence of the conceptual interdependence of eagle and snake energies in traditional Jemez ceremonialism.
18See, for instance, Evers, "Words and Place" 217; Hogan 169; Velie, "Cain and Abel" 61; Waniek; and Billingsley.
19One is tempted to draw a connection between the albino's fine black horse and the dancing holy black horse that appears later in the "August 1" and "August 2" sections, one of two (along with the Bull) masks of the spirit of the Pecos/Bahkyush people; Momaday uses similar and often identical terms in describing the two. It is probably worth noting that the Longhair Francisco greatly admires "the little horse" (79) and has himself danced the horse's counterpart, the Pecos bull (associated with the spirit of the Spanish invaders), "twice or three times, perhaps" (80). In Francisco's eyes, whoever dances the horse well brings honor to himself and to the people, and the albino (like the mask dancer) is clearly one with his horse during the gallo.
20According to Parsons, in Jemez belief the "cloud people," or dyasa, live among the k'ats'ana (compare Keresan ka't'sina and Hopi kachina); the k'ats'ana, in turn,
live at alawanatöta (ala, towards the north), on the mountaintops, and under springs. And the k'ats'ana are identifiable with the dead. The dead live also at wanatöta (translated as "forever"), which is in the north, underground, the place from whence the people came, and whence the newborn still come. "It is the place where we come from and go back to when we die." It is identified with the Keresan term shipapu. . . . (125)
Evers, in his brilliant and seminal article "Words and Place," is (as far as I know) the only student of the novel to have recognized the connection between the albino's performance at the gallo and the blessing of rain that attends his performance.
21See, for example, Aithal, Trimmer, and Oleson ("The episode with Angela is an exquisitely-drawn picture of war between the sexes, and also between the races . . ." ). McAllister, on the other hand, makes Angela out to be a type of the Virgin Mary who "shows Abel the path of salvation" ("Incarnate Grace" 117). For an intriguing interpretation of Angela as a transmitter of disease to Abel, see Hylton.
22Compare Silko's use of the Jackpile Mine, as a manifestation of the Ck'o'yo spirit, in the landscape of Ceremony. The reference here, both within and without the novel, is to the abandoned Spanish Queen copper mine, situated about three-fourths of the way from Jemez Pueblo to Jemez Springs and maybe 300 yards east of the Jemez River and the present Route 4. There are, in fact, several ruins of "ancient towns" up on the southeastern rim of the mesa "above and behind" the site of the Spanish Queen. See U.S. Geological Survey's "Ponderosa Quadrangle (7.5 Minute Series)" topographical map.
23As Robinson observes in "Angles of Vision in N. Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn," such passages as these suggest that Angela's "nature is peculiarly open to contact and empathy with spiritual force" (133).
24Zachrau, for instance, says the albino "stands for the frightening white man" (42), and Trimmer sees the albino as tied symbolically to brutalizing "white culture" (82), while Watkins and McAllister ("Be a Man, Be a Woman") see the albino as representative of witchery. Evers contends that the albino "is the White Man in the Indian; perhaps even the White Man in Abel himself. When Abel kills the Albino, in a real sense he kills a part of himself and his culture which he can no longer recognize and control" ("Words and Place" 219-20; italics mine). Schubnell has it all three ways ("The fear of witchcraft is Abel's conscious motive for killing the albino" ; "It is possible that Abel recognizes himself in the figure of the albino, a mixture of Indian and white" ; and slaying the albino can be read "not only as an act of self-defense against an assault by a witch but also against the corrupting forces of Anglo-American culture" ).
25Throughout the conversation with the albino at Paco's prior to their showdown outside, we are told, "Abel smiled; he nodded and grew silent at length; and the smile was thin and instinctive, a hard, transparent mask upon his mouth and eyes" (82); compare Abel's equally thin and instinctive wooden-Indian act prior to his lovemaking with Angela, 61-63.
26Or at least premeditated. Note that Abel is depicted as waiting-- as earlier he is depicted as awaiting Angela's conformance to his will-- for "the white man [to raise] his arms, as if to embrace him, and c[o]me forward" (82). The use of the definite article in the next sentence ("But Abel had already taken hold of the knife, and he drew it") further emphasizes the apparent prearrangement, as well as perhaps the ritualistic dimension, of this event, signalled earlier with the sentence, "And then they were ready, the two of them."
27In Pueblo as in Kiowa myth, the hummingbird is a conventional (rain-) messenger figure: see, for instance, Tyler 117-24. The word "Tosamah," according to Velie, "sounds very much like the Kiowa word for `woman of the house': to.so.a.mah" ("Cain and Abel" 61); though Velie hears mockery in this word play, I think the pun suggests an element of the "grandmother" in Tosamah's character, thus further aligning him with the traditional preservers of visions of Native American identity (compare the role of Tosamah's own grandmother Aho in his Sunday sermon). As in Silko's Ceremony, both the hummingbird and the grandmother motifs strongly suggest that Tosamah plays a role in an "emergence" story.
28For a fair analogy to this collective attempt to discover or invent a politically and ideologically united ethnic identity, consider the "Harlem Renaissance" movement of the early 1900s. In terms of this analogy, Tosamah would seem to be, ideologically, in the uneasy position of advocating both a variety of B. T. Washington's policy of submission to the dominant culture (as implied in his characterization of Indians as "mere babes in the woods" of Anglo power ) and a sort of Garveyesque nationalism (pan-Indian rather than pan-African) and militancy (manifested in his self-characterization as a "renegade" and "diehard," and his fantasy of some day "find[ing] us a wagon train full of women and children" [149-50]).
29As an example of how language (and,
in this case, the landscape to which language refers) can serve as a source
of identity as well, Momaday tells us in The Names that his own first Kiowa name, a
potential identity given him by
his paternal [step-]great-grandfather, is "Tsoai-talee," "Rock-Tree Boy" (170). Momaday
develops this particular
motif more fully in his latest novel, The Ancient Child (1989).
The temptation to identify an author with his invented persona is always strong, and even though Momaday arguably invites us to equate "N. Scott Momaday" with "John Big Bluff Tosamah" throughout Part 2 of House Made of Dawn, I think it wiser to read the Momaday of The Names, Tosamah in House Made of Dawn, and Set of The Ancient Child as three different personalizations, three voicings, of some more fundamental spirit anchored in the landscape they share in common.
30According to Robinson, "It is [Ben] who, despite his acceptance of and preference for the glitter of the city, provides the reader with the best `window' or angle of vision for seeing why Abel must do what he ultimately chooses to do, and why his choice is right" (137). Robinson's analysis of Ben's "angle of vision" comes very close, I think, to allowing just how much of Ben's sympathy for Abel is based on a shared vision of a landscape's potential for healing.
31See n. 4. For a fine analysis of how some Navajo myths and chantways can be understood as pretexts for the novel generally and Ben's songs in particular (esp. the Stricken Twins motif of the Nightway and the Older Sister motif of Mountainway), see Scarberry-García's Landmarks of Healing. Her analysis emphasizes the healing power of Bear energy accessed by Mountainway song and story, but I think that the energy associated with Beautyway would be more pertinent to Abel's disease of vision: early in his monolog Ben says "I used to tell [Abel] about those old ways, the stories and songs, Beautyway and Night Chant" (146); and though Scarberry-García doesn't make much of it, I think it significant that "the chief etiological factor associated with Beautyway are snakes of every description. Indeed, English-speaking Navajos sometimes refer to it as `the snake chant'" (Wyman 16).
32Evers ("Words and Place") makes
much this same case when he points out that Ben's Night Chant "begins with
the culturally significant geographical reference: Tségihi" and goes on to
imply that, as a healing song, the Night
Chant (or any other healing chant) would be less efficacious were it not grounded in a particular
"ceremonial words are bound efficaciously to place" (225). In The Names,
Momaday translates "Tsegi" as "`place
among the rocks,' sacred ground (Navajo)" (170); a better translation, perhaps, would be
"canyon." The suffix -hi, in
the Navajo language, is a particularizing and noun-forming inflitic.
Among Navajos today, I'm told, the word "tsegi" is commonly used to refer to the canyon country around Kayenta (the place Ben thinks of as "home"); a few generations ago it would probably have more commonly denoted the place named by the Spanish "Cañon de Chelly." In Landmarks of Healing Scarberry-García says that Tségihi is "the name of a canyon north of the San Juan River in Navajo country" (7) and that Tségihi is the name given to Canyon de Chelly in the story informing the Night Chant (78).
33Though I use the term "vision quest" here (recall Momaday's own interest in the Plains Indian vision quest ceremony, already cited in connection with Abel's Valle Grande experience; see also Schubnell, who likens Abel's experience here to a vision quest ), I use the term loosely. In the traditional Plains vision quest, one seeks out a relatively high place at which to receive one's vision (compare Abel earlier on the rim of the Valle Grande); here in Part 2, images of darkness, blindness, enclosing fog, and Abel's location between the sea and a high wire fence combine to create a sense of spatial entrapment. Further, the perspective Abel has (during the few moments when he can see at all) is constantly ground level at best. Bataille's provocative suggestion (in her April 16, 1977 interview with Momaday) that Abel's ordeal be seen as analogous to a Pueblo kiva initiation ceremony deserves serious consideration.
34Momaday includes, in addition to the image substitution mentioned above, other indications that Abel is coming to accept his spirit kinship with the fish and, by extension, with the snake. For instance, a little more than halfway through the episode we are told that Abel "had the sense that his whole body was shaking violently, tossing and whipping, flopping like a fish. Then he realized that beyond the pain of his broken body he was cold, colder than he had ever been before. He tried to cry out, but only a hoarse rattle and wheezing came from his throat" (115). The sound he emits here should probably remind us of the irregular breathing that characterizes the albino in Part 1 as well as the "short and quick" sound of Martinez's breath (175), while the word "rattle" here is also suggestive of the culebra of his Valle Grande vision (specified as a "rattlesnake" ).
Several critics have explored the grunion/Abel metaphor (a good representative example is McDonald 57); none that I know of, however, sees that Abel's acceptance of his identity with the helpless fish results in a new attitude towards (including a temporary felt identity with) snake energy.
35Even though Ben is predisposed to think well of Angela (not only because he seems predisposed to see beauty everywhere but also because Abel earlier pointed her out to Ben as a "friend"), his account of her visit reveals Angela's desire to possess or else break Abel's spirit. "Talking kind of fast, like she knew just what she wanted to say," Angela "started telling him about her son, Peter" (who, she says, was too "busy with his friends" to come visit himself) and of Peter's fascination with "the Indians." The "story Peter liked best of all," the one Ben can tell is also "kind of secret and important to her," is the story of a "young Indian brave" who was "born of a bear and a maiden" (187). Several critics (including Barry, Raymond, and Zachrau) apparently identify Abel with the "young Indian brave" of Angela's story and so miss the point of the story; McDonald, who identifies Abel's role in Angela's creation story correctly, nevertheless goes on to conclude that her story has an "inspiring effect" on Abel (60), thus missing the point in a different way (see also Hylton 67-68; McAllister, "Incarnate Grace" 122-23; and Waniek, 25). Recall that in Angela's version of their liaison at Walatowa during Part 1, Abel replaces "the great bear, blue-black and blowing" of her own recurring sexual fantasy (32-33, 64). In the story she tells for Ben and Abel, the mythical child of just such a union, who "was noble and wise," "had many adventures," and "became a great leader and saved his people" (187), is for Peter, not Abel, to identify with. As Abel no doubt senses from her telling, the sole function of the bear--of Abel--in Angela's story is to inseminate (= inspire?) the "maiden" Angela, after which he is dropped out of the picture. Whichever people are "saved" in Angela's story, Abel is not among them.
36Then again, Ben's respect may be more attributable to the Mountain Chant legend her story puts him in mind of than to Angela's story per se; Evers, for one, finds her tale "as rootless as a Disney cartoon," tied as it is to no particular geographical place and to no particular "cultural landscape" ("Words and Place" 225). Scarberry-García, on the other hand, proposes that Ben and Angela "appear to work together as storytelling healers to help Abel" (Landmarks of Healing 57) and relates Angela's story to the Older Sister origin myth informing Mountainway.
Notes to Chapter 3: The Function of the Landscape of The Death of Jim Loney
1In Bevis, "Dialogue with James Welch" 165.
2It is probably safe to say that Welch has become canonized as one of the four or five major American Indian authors, novelist or otherwise. Velie's 1982 study Four American Indian Masters treats Momaday, Silko, Welch, and Vizenor. Of the nine chapters in Lincoln's Native American Renaissance (1983), three focus on individual writers: "Word Senders: Black Elk and N. Scott Momaday," "Blackfeet Winter Blues: James Welch," and "Grandmother Storyteller: Leslie Silko" (his preface to the 1985 paperback edition includes a lengthy tribute to Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine). Under the heading "Contemporary Fiction," Wiget (Native American Literature) includes the subsections "N. Scott Momaday," "Leslie Marmon Silko," "James Welch," and "Other novels and novelists." Allen's 1986 The Sacred Hoop devotes more space to the study of Momaday, Silko, and Welch than to any other writers.
3See, for instance, Jahner, "A Critical Approach" 221-23; Sands, "Indian or Not?"; Thackeray, "Crying for Pity"; and Purdy, "Bha'a and The Death of Jim Loney."
4Lewis refers to Loney's emotional detachment as his being "under existential novocaine" (4) and compares him to Updike's Rabbit Angstrom in Rabbit, Run. Bevis asserts that Loney "could be called existential, meaning that there can be something positive in taking responsibility for even a meaningless act--an act that won't do any real good" ("Dialogue" 177); Lincoln sees the novel as a "surreal play" (183) that is so existential it's nihilistic: "Nothing matters in this novel of small revelations" (Native American Renaissance 166). In his well-thought-out article "The Death of Jim Loney as a Half-Breed's Tragedy," Thackeray makes Loney out to be a tragic existential hero: heroic because he accepts (and acts out) responsibility for his earlier "choice of the White world" (3) of the Highline, tragic because the white world wasn't worth choosing in the first place. Thackeray's argument is that Loney's Highline existence has resulted in the loss of "the whole of his Indian heritage" (2); my own contention is that Loney never had much of a heritage, in the sense of a cultural literacy, to lose, but that whatever he has "lost" is still recoverable through reidentification with the land--the source of his heritage, cultural and otherwise.
5For an excellent social history of the Belknap area, including a study of the interrelationships among the area's Gros Ventre and Assiniboine inhabitants since the mid-1800s, see Fowler's Shared Symbols, Contested Meanings. Her study of Gros Ventre cultural history maintains that the "heart" of Gros Ventre traditionalism is (and since the turn of the century has been) located in and around Hays, the small town near the mouth of Mission Canyon (where Amos After Buffalo lives in the novel), while the heart of Assiniboine traditionalism is located a few miles east at Lodgepole (where, according to Ike's account, Loney's mother Eletra comes from), also at the foot of the Little Rockies. According to Fowler, oldtimers--Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Longhairs--have always been available and accessible to Gros Ventre (as well as mixed-blood) youngsters looking for cultural guidance or seeking ceremonial intervention.
6In an interview with Coltelli, Welch differentiates between the structure of a traditional vision quest and the makeshift quest that Loney undergoes:
. . . it's hard for twentieth-century people actually to do a vison quest in that traditional way; in a sense, I guess, it has became a metaphysical vision quest or at least an abstract vision quest. I mean, in the real [traditional] vision quest the people went to seek a vision and from that vision they would know how to conduct themselves. . . . Depending upon which power animal appeared to them, they would take attributes of that animal . . . a traditional vision quest always had a particular thing that it sought and then once the vision came it had almost a practical aspect; then you could use the power that the vision represented. In a sense I can't see either character, in either novel [Winter in the Blood or The Death of Jim Loney], having finally received a vision. . . . I'm not so sure that my supposed vision quest in those novels really came to the kind of fruition that a true vision quest comes to. (187-88)
7At the end of the chapter preceding Loney's dream of the deserted mother, we are told that Rhea, while standing watch as Loney sleeps, hears (or perhaps imagines) a voice, presumably Loney's, nominating her "the only friend I've got in this world." Her response links her own doubts about her ability to serve Loney well with her pipedream of starting over in Seattle: "`I know,' she heard her own clear voice say, `and it frightens me.' And she watched dawn and thought about Seattle" (33).
8Loney's view of Ike's trailer in Part 3 re-emphasizes its (and its inhabitant's) alienation from the rest of Harlem: "At night it looked even more remote, as though it had never been intended to be a part of the town" (137).
9As surrealistic as it might seem in the text here, this pink-painted Catholic church, along with its little graveyard, exists outside the novel as well. It sits perched on a knoll on the north side of U.S. 2 between Harlem and Dodson, its front doors padlocked but the graveyard (laid out along its north and east sides) openly accessible. As in the novel, a person standing in the graveyard itself has a clear view to the north of the Milk River (and, beyond, the plains rolling northward to Canada) and, in the opposite direction, an equally unobstructed view of the reservation and the Little Rockies to the south.
10As Rhea herself acknowledges in her thinking,
One of her best students, Arlene Small, lived out here with her mother. Arlene, like most of her Indian students, was shy, and Rhea had often wished she could take the girl home with her, to get to know her, but there were barriers. There were always barriers, some artificial, some natural. (105)
This could, of course, be taken as an accurate bottom-line assessment of Rhea's relationship to Loney as well.
11Note Pretty Weasel's conscious identification, not with the land, but rather with his "people" and their history. I read his comment ("we won it all once" ) as double entendre, "it" referring not only to the 1958 state basketball championship but also to the land passing by on the other side of the car window--land which now, in Pretty Weasel's thinking, belongs to someone else.
12Pretty Weasel's agility here (as his name further suggests) might be taken to imply that such motion in such places comes "naturally" enough to him. Though Loney also has much of the predator in his personality (the "wolfish" features attributed to him both by Kate [63, 66] and by the old Cree lady at the airport ), he has spent most of his life repressing it, and consequently, as Pretty Weasel puts it, he moves more like a "porcupine" (116) than a natural predator (snake, weasel, bear, or whatever) in this scene. Welch is, I think, inviting us to recognize that Loney's moves have grown rusty during the years of his spiritual hibernation, as has his ability to see clearly in the dazzling light he encounters in this scene.
13Apropos of the seasonal dimension of this event, it is set in time on the day of the Winter Solstice (we are told that three days after the shooting Loney calls Kate on the 23rd of December [128-29] and "old man Pretty Weasel" notifies authorities that his son has been missing for three days ). Even though Welch's text fixes events in time relative to such red-letter dates of the Highline calendar as Thanksgiving and Christmas, significant re-emergences of life forces in the novel still honor a more traditionally Native American sense of timing, and so the timing of Loney's last stand at Mission Canyon, which occurs on the fourth dawn subsequent to the shooting of Pretty Weasel, is probably not coincidental.
14When Pretty Weasel confirms Loney's own identification of the "thick dark animal" they both see, Loney "wanted to ask why that was a bear. There were no bears anymore. They had been driven out of the valley years ago by settlers and hunters" (117).
15Niatum has commented on the similarities he, too, perceives between Camus and Welch in his article "On Stereotypes" (552). See also Craig, who likens Loney's actions in Part 3 to "those of Mersault in Camus's The Stranger" (188).
16This knowledge apparently comes to Loney precisely in the form of the memory I am alluding to, in which Loney recalls how he once watched his father discover the snowcovered footprint of a bobcat one day when "the light was just like this, blue going on gray, the sun just a light on the evening star" (121). The memory is particularly ominous: we know already that Loney has acquired precious little practice or skill in the business of hunting (we are told that "his father had never instructed him in anything" , which helps to explain why Loney leaves Pretty Weasel to select the game, to provide him with a gun, to do the stalking, and even to identify their quarry); the implication is that even though Loney knows his life has become a hunt, he also knows he lacks the prerequisite skills of the hunter, much less the skills to survive as the quarry of accomplished hunters.
17The "Old Highway" here is the road designated FAS 396 on the BIA's reservation road map. It parallels the Burlington Northern Railway tracks laid north of the Milk River. Approaching Harlem from the west, the "New Highway"--U.S. Rt. 2, the "Highline"--replaced 396 up to a point about a mile west of Harlem, where U.S. 2 dips suddenly southeast to a point just south of the Milk River and then roughly parallels the river to a point just east of the current reservation boundary, where it crosses the Milk and rejoins 396. Compare, in House Made of Dawn, Francisco's use of the "old wagon road" rather than Route 4 to get from Jemez to San Ysidro, or Tayo's choice (Ceremony 169-70) to take the wagon road rather than Route 66 to return from Mesita to Laguna, as similar metaphors for choosing to conform personal motion more closely to the natural contours of the land, thus keeping one more in tune with whatever regenerative spirit lives there.
18It is tempting, in Jungian terms, to see the bird as a figure of Loney's spiritual anima, the unconsciously-coded psychological legacy of his "full-blooded Gros Ventre" mother (and also the source of his vision of the Mother Woman in the Mission graveyard), and to see the bear (like the wolf) as a figure of his spiritual animus, the legacy of his predatory father. The former would "naturally" tend to lead Loney towards identification with the landscape, while the latter would account for Loney's obsession with coming to terms with Ike and the life of the Highline more generally. Within this context we might conclude that Loney suffers in the first two parts of the novel from a dissociated personality (anima at odds with animus, consciousness allied with neither). The "cure" for Loney's disease would then lie in his ability to re-integrate these three elements of his personality. By the end of Part 2 Loney has indeed reintegrated the anima and animus aspects of his spirit (as we see in Part 3, he becomes capable of loving Rhea while being equally capable of dealing with Ike on Ike's turf), and, although he may not be conscious of the event of reintegration, he is conscious of the effects of it--capable of thinking he is able to love and equally able to make his father cooperate with his designs. What is most important here is that the event of reintegration requires the intercession of the land: Loney must enter into identification with a landscape before he can do anything about his internal disease.
19The road Welch describes here, "376" (designated "FAS 376" on the BIA's highway system map of the Fort Belknap Reservation, though labeled "state route 66" on geodetic survey maps), is the only continuously paved road running north-south from one end of the reservation to the other. It does in fact run "straight and true" (on a line running exactly north-south) for thirty miles between a point just east of Snake Butte (about six miles southeast from its junction with U.S. 2, the "Highline") and the Hays turnoff (at which point the road begins to follow the contour of the mountains east and west of it, to intersect at the "D Y Junction" with U.S. 191).
20The concept of such a gateway or opening between the real world and the spirit world is of course not limited to Pueblo thinking. Typically, the Pueblo opening or sipapu is a hole in the ground; in other Native American groups, the opening connects not up and down worlds but across worlds (as, for instance, the canyon Tségihi in Navajo). The latter is probably what Welch has in mind here. Wiget says that local Indians regard Mission Canyon as a "portal into the next life" (Native American Literature 93). Compare Welch's use of the Blackfeet version of this motif in Fool's Crow).
21From a conventionally existential perspective, of course, Loney's choice to die (along with all the actions for which that choice becomes the raison d'être) is, like all choice, an act of invention. Alternately, from a traditional Native perspective, it can be read as a recovery or rediscovery. Purdy summarizes this point neatly in an unpublished manuscript entitled "`He Was Going Along': Motion in the Novels of James Welch":
Once [Welch's] protagonists move away from the towns and the Highline, they are given a chance to learn to move deliberately. . . . As Kathleen Sands has noted [in "Indian or Not?"], after the death of Pretty Weasel, Loney moves as a Gros Ventre warrior, choosing the place, time and way of his death. . . . The movement betwen life and death, like movement between any two places or realms of experience, may be handled appropriately, even by someone, like Loney, who has been isolated from the tribal knowledge and world view that have enlightened the movement of other generations. Loney is guided by a force he has no means to comprehend; Bha'a --Thunderer--has come to him in a dream, but he lacks the stories necessary to interpret that dream. The intimate connection between a people and a landscape remains, even though one member may lack the knowledge of how to perform responsibly his obligation to that relationship. (20-21)
Notes to Conclusion
1For a fuller analysis of these two story motifs as pretexts for Silko's own, see my article "He Said / She Said: Writing the Oral Tradition in Gunn's `Kopot Ka-nat' and Silko's Storyteller."
2As clear as it may be to most readers today that Momaday's novel is set a Jemez Pueblo, it was news to me in 1981. The word Jemez appears nowhere in the novel, and none of the place names that appear in the text (Walatowa, Los Ojos, Vallecitos, San Ysidro) is indexed in the Rand McNally, my only research aid at the time.
3The narrator glosses the term Chautauqua as an "old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer" (7). The reference is to the social and cultural agenda of the Chautauqua Society, inaugurated in 1874. Given the narrator's own concern with the origins of American cultural traditions as well as with with the "mainstream" metaphor (vide infra), it's interesting that the term was originally appropriated from a Seneca phrase for a body of water where one can catch fish.