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House Made of Dawn

N. Scott Momaday

The Priest of The Sun (Los Angeles, 1952)

Prologue–The Longhair (Walatowa, Cañon de San Diego, 1945)

The Priest of The Sun (Los Angeles, 1952), page 2

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Summary

January 26

After spending some years in prison for murder, Abel finds himself in Los Angeles, under the care of the Indian Relocation program. The chapter begins with the Reverend John Big Bluff Tosamah, the Pastor and Priest of the Sun, delivering a sermon entitled "The Gospel According to John." Tosamah has a disciple, Cristobal Cruz. A good deal of the priest's sermon is a retelling of old Kiowa legends he has heard from his grandmother, such as the story of Tai-me.

Abel lives with another Indian, Ben Benally, in a small apartment, and spends some time working with Ben at a factory. In the present moment of the narrative we find a broken and beat up Abel lying semi-conscious on the beach, reminiscing over the events and experiences of the past months in Los Angeles—Tosamah's sermons among those experiences. Abel recalls Milly, a social worker who comes by the apartment to ask questions and help Abel adjust to life in Los Angeles. Milly eventually became Abel's lover.

At this point, only fragments of what has happened to Abel are revealed, such as his experience as a fearless and crazy soldier in World War II. Abel also briefly reminisces on one of the ceremonies with the Priest of the Sun that involved the use of the hallucinogenic peyote.

January 27

The next day, Tosamah delivers a second sermon—titled "The Way to Rainy Mountain"—that retells the Kiowa story of the origin of Devil's Tower in Wyoming. Tosamah's grandmother had been about seven when she witnessed the last of the Kiowa sun dances, held in 1887 above Rainy Mountain Creek. Three years later she witnessed the last gathering of the Kiowa as a sun dance culture, known as "Sun Dance When the Forked Poles Were Left Standing." At this last gathering, American soldiers from Fort Sill rode out and dispersed the Kiowa tribe, preventing them from carrying out the ceremony, which was the essential act of their faith.

In her later years, Tosamah's grandmother lived in a small house near the point where Rainy Mountain Creek runs into the Washita River. Here, every summer, there was excitement and reunion among the Kiowa. At the end of his sermon Tosamah retells the story of visiting his grandmother's grave on Rainy Mountain.

Abel, meanwhile, finally gets up from the ditch where he lies on the beach, and slowly makes his way across Los Angeles toward the apartment he shares with Ben.

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