The Man to Send Rainclouds by Leslie Marmon Silko

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(Short Stories for Students)

''The Man to Send Rain Clouds'' is set on an Indian reservation in the American Southwest, with its wide mesas (plateaus) and arroyos (ravines). As the story opens, Leon and his brother-in-law, Ken, find an old man, Teofilo, dead under a cottonwood tree. They ritually paint his face and take his body, wrapped in a red blanket, to their home for a traditional Pueblo funeral ceremony. (The Pueblo people paint the faces of the dead so that they will be recognized in the next world. They also scatter corn and sprinkle water to provide food and water for the spirit on its journey to the other world. To the Pueblo, death is not the end of existence, but part of a cycle in which the spirit of the deceased returns to its source and then helps the community of the living by returning with rain clouds for the nourishment of the earth.)

On their way home, Leon and Ken encounter Father Paul, a young Catholic priest who expresses his sorrow that the old man had died alone. Teofilo's funeral is performed in the traditional Native American way until Leon's wife suggests to her husband that he should ask the priest to sprinkle holy water on the grave. At first, Father Paul refuses to use the holy water as part of an Indian burial ceremony. After reconsideration the priest, still confused about his role the ceremony, changes his mind and sprinkles the grave with the holy water:

The priest approached the grave slowly ... He looked at the red blanket, not sure that Teofilo was so small, wondering if...

(The entire section is 410 words.)