This quotation comes from the Introduction of The Way to Rainy Mountain . Here, we are introduced not only to the author’s grandmother, Aho, but also to her native people, the Kiowa. The text describes the tribal migration from Montana to Oklahoma as the Kiowa moved southeast across the Plains....
This quotation comes from the Introduction of The Way to Rainy Mountain. Here, we are introduced not only to the author’s grandmother, Aho, but also to her native people, the Kiowa. The text describes the tribal migration from Montana to Oklahoma as the Kiowa moved southeast across the Plains. Along the way, they acquired a new culture and a new religion.
Since they were heading east, theirs was a literal and geographic “journey toward the dawn,” because the sun rises in the East. The movement also marked a new beginning for the Kiowa, so it was a figurative “dawning” for their people overall. Key to this transformation was their adoption of Tai-me, the Sun Dance doll, and the rituals surrounding the performance of the Sun Dance. The journey was therefore even more symbolic, as the Kiowa moved toward both the sun and the Sun Dance.
Five paragraphs later, Momaday says, “My grandmother had a reverence for the sun, a holy regard that now is all but gone out of mankind.” He tells of her attendance at the Sun Dances. The Sun Dance is described again in chapter X. In the Epilogue, Momaday brings closure to the tale by saying that the “golden age of the Kiowas had been short lived, ninety or a hundred years,” from about 1740 to 1875. Once again, he references the Sun Dances and their importance to the people. So we can consider the concepts of the sun, the dawn, and this “golden” time as hallmarks of the Kiowa culture.
I think to answer your question you need to realise that the quote you gave is actually a metaphor. The key to working out what the author is talking about relates to the images that the word "dawn" creates in our mind. Consider the fate of Aho's tribe before their migration and note how they were described:
They were a mountain people, a mysterious tribe of hunters whose language has never been positively classified in any major group.
They were an indistinct tribal group without their own separate ethnic identity. However, their migration changed that as it triggered "a golden age" for this tribe. The migration, through the people they met and the change in location, gave the Kiowa people a new culture, which included a new religion and a sense of pride in their own tribal identity. So much so, that when they entered the southern Plains the texts tells us they had been transformed:
No longer were they slaves to the simple necessity of survival; they were a lordly and dangerous society of fighters and thieves, hunters and priests of the sun.
Thus we can understand why the metaphor is appropriate. It was a new, glorious start for the tribe, just as dawn signifies a new beginning for the world.