Ceremonially, the feast of Santiago plays itself out every July 25th, reenacting the events of history. A brilliant horseman, an albino, bloodies Abel with a dead rooster during a ceremonial contest as Angela watches.
Four days later, Abel returns to the Benevides house to finish cutting Angela's wood. Angela has been waiting, and her obsession with Abel results in a passionate romantic tryst between them. On the first of August, Father Olguin makes another appearance at the Benevides house, only to realize that Angela has no romantic intentions towards him.
Huge festivities rage through the town as a storm sets in towards the evening. Francisco has spent the evening in the ceremonial kiva, or hut, along with the other holy men in town. Additionally, a bull is running through the streets as part of the ceremony. That night, among many drunk Navajos at Paco's, the local bar, Abel and the albino have a tense conversation and leave the bar. Abel kills the albino and watches his blood drip in the rain.
At the opening of House Made of Dawn, Momaday introduces Abel, the protagonist, saying that Abel is running through a desolate landscape by himself. The landscape is "the house made of dawn, made of pollen and of rain." Such a house, in which the wall is the dawn and whose roof is the rain, is a place that is limitless and free. Abel is born into this freedom, and he is the one who has the responsibility to tend to the natural world around him, to take care of it and foster it. Momaday implies the notion of creation and beginnings by starting the novel at dawn. The chapter titles, which indicate sequences of days, indicate that time is the important structuring mechanism of the novel as a whole. Furthermore, the day the novel begins—July 20—is an important one to the Kiowa people, as it is the day that the Kiowa attempted to hold a sun dance for the last time, in 1890. Indeed, many of the events in Abel's life are connected to dates that correspond to the decline of the Kiowa tribe.
The first chapter of the novel takes place in the town of Walatowa, with Abel's grandfather, Francisco, as the protagonist. Francisco's memory of the race he won when he was young provides a direct connection to Abel's running in the prologue: we gather that the race is part of Abel's culture and tradition, and that Abel, in running, is following in the footsteps of his ancestors. In this chapter Momaday also sets up an opposition through the description of environmental sounds. For most of the chapter Francisco hears the sounds around him, such as the wind, the sparrows, or the river. As he approaches the junction to pick up Abel, however, he hears something else—the low whine of tires on road, a high-pitched mechanical sound. This sound, so alien to the environment to which Francisco is accustomed, comes from the bus that carries Abel back into town. We are instantly alerted to the fact that Abel is someone who is coming from a foreign, more modern world.
Abel's otherness has always been a part of him. Waking up the next day, he recalls that he did not know who his father was, but knew that he was Navajo, or a Sia, or something else. It was this different blood that made Abel's father foreign and strange to the rest of the Indians in the village. When we come to the climactic moment of the first chapter, when Abel kills the albino, who has previously taunted him at the feast of Santiago, Momaday purposefully leaves out the conversation between the two men. What they say to each other is never revealed—we only know that Abel stabs the albino, and that the albino is completely emotionless and expressionless as he dies.