The main external conflict is character vs. society as the native’s traditions and those of the Roman Catholic Church collide in the burial ceremony.
The story is about Native Americans who have try to have a traditional burial without the intervention of the Roman Catholic Church. At this time, the Church is trying to convert the natives. Yet the natives still have their own religion, and want to honor their people in their own way.
“What did you say? I didn’t here you.”
“I said that I had been thinking about something.”
“About the priest sprinkling holy water for Grandpa. So he won’t be thirsty.”
This demonstrates that the conflict is both an external and internal struggle. Externally, the native religion and the Church are at odds. Internally, the natives are trying to make sense of internalizing both religions, and the Priest is trying to explain Catholic rituals in terms that the natives will understand.
The external conflict in Leslie Marmon Silko’s “The Man to Send Rainclouds” is between the Native American characters and the Catholic priest Father Paul, specifically with regard to religion. As the above post noted, we see this conflict in terms of the different burial rites observed by the two religions.
We also see evidence of the conflict earlier in the story. Leon and Ken find Teofilo’s body in the story’s very first sentence. However, when they encounter Father Paul shortly afterwards, they do not tell him that Teofilo is deceased. In fact, they intentionally let him go on believing that Teofilo is still alive.
Later, when Father Paul asks why they didn’t tell him that Teofilo had died, Leon says,
It wasn’t necessary, Father.
This is a key line from the story. As far as the Native Americans in the story are concerned, it is probably safe to say that the white man’s religion itself is just as unnecessary. Although the white religious establishment feels that it is necessary to convert the Native Americans to Christianity, the Native Americans, as demonstrated in this story, do not share this belief.