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Leslie Marmon Silko writes about her people: the Laguna Pueblo people of New Mexico. Many of her stories are based on the oral tradition of passing the folklore from generation to generation through story telling.
This story "The Man to Send Rain Clouds" evolves through the death of an old Indian shepherd, Teofilo. The narrator tells the story through third person with little emotion.
Thematically, the story results in a clash of cultures: the Catholic Church and the Native American traditions of burial. When the men find their grandfather, they lay him on a red blanket and prepare him for burial. Each grandson paints a different color stripe on his face. They attach a feather to his gray hair.
Then Leon painted with yellow under the old man's broad nose, and finally, when he had painted green across the chin, he smiled. 'Send us rain clouds, Grandfather.'
To complete the body's preparation, they throw pinches of corn meal and pollen into the wind.
On the way back with the grandfather's body, the grandsons encounter the Catholic priest. Knowing that the old man had been missing, the priest asks if they had located him. Without really answering the question, ironically Leon tells the priest that everything is okay at the sheep camp. The priest admonishes the men for allowing their elderly grandfather to go out and stay at the sheep camp.
'Teofilo is a very old man. You really shouldn't allow him to stay at the sheep camp alone.'
"No, he won't do that any more now.'
The grandsons did not want to involve outsiders in the burial of the grandfather.
The wives of the grandsons are waiting for the news. It was assumed that the old man had died, so they had prepared his clothing. The grandfather looked so small and shrunked in his new clothes.
Leon worried about digging the grave. However, it was New Mexico and the top of the ground is all that freezes. One of the wives decides that the old man should be sprinkled with Holy water to quench his thirst in the after world. Leon decides this may be a good thing and goes to see the priest.
As Leon enters the church, the narrator points out that there is a carved lamb on the door representing Jesus. Silko may also be pointing out the old man was a shepherd as well.
At first, the priest is surprised at the news of the old man's death. He asks why the grandson had not told him. Leon answers that "It was not necessary, Father."
A clash between cultures arouses when the priest tells Leon that he needed to give the grandfather last rites. Leon knows that it is getting late and the burial must take place. The priest succumbs to the pressure and goes with Leon. Hopefully, the priest will realize that Leon has crossed the barrier between the Indians and whites by asking the priest to take part in the burial ceremony.
The climax of the story comes from the blending of the two ceremonies. The priest faces the parishioners, and then sprinkles the grave and the red blanket with the water. He shook the container until it was empty. Confused about his part of the ceremony, the sharing of the water to the observers has an almost mystical effect. Leon watches as the priest walks back to the parish.
The resolution of the story comes as the men lower the old man's body into the grave. Leon looks up into the blue mountains and feels that they have provided a good burial for their grandfather, speaks to him: now the old man could send them big thunderclouds for sure.
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