Ceremony

Tayo Character Analysis

A Laguna Pueblo man with a white father, Tayo returns to the Laguna reservation after World War II sick in mind and body after the trauma of war. Tayo grew up homeless with his mother, Little Sister, who eventually left him with her sister, Auntie. Auntie then raised Tayo out of a sense of duty, but resents Tayo for his mixed blood and green eyes. As a child, Tayo believed wholeheartedly in the traditional Native American stories and ceremonies, unlike his cousin Rocky (Auntie’s son). After Rocky’s death during the war, Tayo is wracked with guilt and doubt, and no longer believes so strongly in the sanctity of the old ways. Tayo’s pessimism has merit, as even the Laguna medicine man Ku’oosh admits that in the modern world the old ceremonies no longer work as they once did. Yet Tayo continues to search for healing, and after he meets the Navajo medicine man Betonie he works to create a new ceremony that will work – this ceremony involves Tayo reconnecting with his past and accepting his “hybrid” ancestry by reclaiming his dead uncle Josiah’s lost cattle, as well as reconnecting with the native spirit world by falling in love with Ts’eh, who seems likely to be the human form of the Laguna goddess Reed Woman. Tayo comes to understand the necessity of cultural cross-over in order to build a stronger, more sustainable future, as well as the need to protect the land from human greed. The novel suggests that Tayo’s mixed blood is an asset to the future, allowing Tayo to better adapt to the changing, modern world and a future of increased cultural diversity. And in refusing a final deadly face-off with the murderous Emo, Tayo asserts his connection to the balance and respect of native philosophy, as opposed to what the novel portrays as the egotism and dominance-based ethic of white culture. In this way, Tayo himself stands as a kind of symbol of the choice that all humans have between adding to the destruction of the world and contributing to the salvation of the world.

Tayo Quotes in Ceremony

The Ceremony quotes below are all either spoken by Tayo or refer to Tayo. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of Ceremony published in 2006.
Section 1 Quotes

So Tayo stood there, stiff with nausea, while they fired at the soldiers, and he watched his uncle fall, and he knew it was Josiah; and even after Rocky started shaking him by the shoulders and telling him to stop crying, it was still Josiah lying there.

Related Characters: Tayo (speaker), Rocky, Josiah
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

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Section 2 Quotes

“You know what people will say if we ask for a medicine man to help him. Someone will say it's not right. They'll say, 'Don't do it. He's not full blood anyway."'

Related Characters: Auntie (Thelma) (speaker), Tayo, Grandmother
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

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“But you know, grandson, this world is fragile."
The word he chose to express "fragile" was filled with the intricacies of a continuing process, and with a strength inherent in spider webs woven across paths through sand hills where early in the morning the sun becomes entangled in each filament of web.

Related Characters: Ku’oosh (speaker), Tayo
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

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"There are some things we can’t cure like we used to,” he said, "not since the white people came. The others who had the Scalp Ceremony, some of them are not better either.”

Related Characters: Ku’oosh (speaker), Tayo
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

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“I'm half-breed. I'll be the first to say it. I'll speak for both sides. First time you walked down the street in Gallup or Albuquerque, you knew. Don't lie. You knew right away. The war was over, the uniform was gone. All of a sudden that man at the store waits on you last, makes you wait until all the white people bought what they wanted. And the white lady at the bus depot, she's real careful now not to touch your hand when she counts out your change.”

Related Characters: Tayo (speaker)
Related Symbols: Green Eyes
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

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"They took our land, they took everything! So let's get our hands on white women!" They cheered… Maybe Emo was wrong: maybe white people didn't have everything. Only Indians had droughts.

Related Characters: Emo (speaker), Tayo
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Section 3 Quotes

She was careful that Rocky did not share these things with Tayo, that they kept a distance between themselves and him. But she would nor let Tayo go outside or play in another room alone. She wanted him close enough to feel excluded, to be aware of the distance between them.

Related Characters: Tayo, Rocky, Auntie (Thelma)
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

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They think that if their children have the same color of skin, the same color of eyes, that nothing is changing." She laughed softly. "They are fools. "You don't have to understand what is happening. But remember this day. You will recognize it later. You are part of it now."

Related Characters: Night Swan (speaker), Tayo
Related Symbols: Green Eyes
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

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Section 4 Quotes

The people nowadays have an idea about the ceremonies. They think the ceremonies must be performed exactly as they have always been done, maybe because one slip-up or mistake and the whole ceremony must be stopped and the sand painting destroyed. That much is true. They think that if a singer tampers with any part of the ritual, great harm can be done, great power unleashed…That much can be true also. But long ago when the people were given these ceremonies, the changing began, if only in the aging of the yellow gourd rattle or the shrinking of the skin around the eagle's claw, if only in the different voices from generation to generation, singing the chants. You see, in many ways, the ceremonies have always been changing."

Related Characters: Betonie (speaker), Tayo
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

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Some people act like witchery is responsible for every- thing that happens, when actually witchery only manipulates a small portion." He pointed in the direction the boy had gone. "Accidents happen, and there's little we can do. But don't be so quick to call something good or bad. There are balances and harmonies always shifting, always necessary to maintain.

Related Characters: Betonie (speaker), Tayo
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

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'it never has been easy. It will take a long long time and many more stories like this one before they are laid low. …
"He reasoned that because it was set loose by witchery of all the world, and brought to them by the whites, the ceremony against it must be the same. …
This is the only way,' she told him. 'It cannot be done alone.
'We must have power from everywhere. Even the power we can get from the whites.'

Related Characters: Betonie (speaker), Tayo, Descheeny
Page Number: 139
Explanation and Analysis:

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He was thinking about Harley and Leroy; about Helen Jean and himself. How much longer would they last? How long before one of them got stabbed in a bar fight, not just knocked out? How long before this old truck swerved off the road or head-on into a bus?

Related Characters: Tayo, Harley, Leroy, Helen Jean
Page Number: 155-156
Explanation and Analysis:

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The power of each day spilled over the hills in great silence. Sunrise. He ended the prayer with "sunrise" because he knew the Dawn people began and ended all their words with "sunrise."

Related Characters: Tayo
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

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Section 5 Quotes

So he had gone, not expecting to find anything more than the winter constellation in the north sky overhead; but suddenly Betonie's vision was a story he could feel happening - from the stars and the woman, the mountain and the cattle would come.

Related Characters: Tayo, Betonie
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

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It was a cure for that, and maybe for other things too. The spotted cattle wouldn't be lost any more, scattered through his dreams, driven by his hesitation to admit they had been stolen, that the land - all of it - had been stolen from them. The anticipation of what he might find was strung tight in his belly…

Related Characters: Tayo, Josiah
Related Symbols: Hybrid Spotted Cattle, Bellies (Stomachs)
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

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Section 6 Quotes

He lay there and hated them. Not for what they wanted to do with him, but for what they did to the earth with their machines, and to the animals with their packs of dogs and their guns. It happened again and again, and the people had to watch, unable to save or to protect any of the things that were so important to them.

Related Characters: Tayo
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:

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Section 7 Quotes

…occasionally a calf bolted away bucking and leaping in a wide arc, returning finally to its mother when it tired of playing. Tayo's heart beat fast; he could see Josiah's vision emerging, he could see the story taking form in bone and muscle.

Related Characters: Tayo, Josiah
Related Symbols: Hybrid Spotted Cattle
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

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"The end of the story. They want to change it. They want it to end here, the way all their stories end, encircling slowly to choke the life away. The violence of the struggle excites them, and the killing soothes them. They have their stories about us – Indian people who are only marking time and waiting for the end.”

Related Characters: Ts’eh (speaker), Tayo
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

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From the jungles of his dreaming he recognized why the Japanese voices had merged with Laguna voices, with Josiah's voice and Rocky's voice; the lines of cultures and worlds were drawn in flat dark lines on fine light sand, converging in the middle of witchery's final ceremonial sand painting. From that time on, human beings were one clan again, united by the fate the destroyers planned for all of them, for all living things; united by a circle of death that devoured people in cities twelve thousand miles away, victims who had never known these mesas, who had never seen the delicate colors of the rocks which boiled up their slaughter.

Related Characters: Tayo, Rocky, Josiah
Related Symbols: The Atomic Bomb
Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:

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It had been a close call. The witchery had almost ended the story according to its plan; Tayo had almost jammed the screwdriver into Emo's skull the way the witchery had wanted, savoring the yielding bone and membrane as the steel ruptured the brain. Their deadly ritual for the autumn solstice would have been completed by him.

Related Characters: Tayo, Emo
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

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Tayo Character Timeline in Ceremony

The timeline below shows where the character Tayo appears in Ceremony. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
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The narrative of the story begins with Tayo, as he sleeps fitfully in his sparse bedroom. Tayo dreams in a mix of English... (full context)
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Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
Tayo wakes up and goes outside. He sees the ranch animals, a cat and goats, peacefully... (full context)
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Tayo remembers the jungle, where he could never escape rain. He blamed the rain for Rocky’s... (full context)
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Tayo’s song describes two sisters: Reed Woman and Corn Woman. Corn Woman does all the work... (full context)
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Tayo blames his song in the Philippines for causing the drought at the ranch in New... (full context)
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Tayo felt invisible in the veteran’s hospital, and unable to interact with people through the fog... (full context)
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Tayo takes his luggage to the LA train station, trying to get used to life outside... (full context)
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Returning to Tayo’s present in the ranch house, Tayo sits on his bed watching the sunlight crawl across... (full context)
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Tayo goes outside and sits under an elm tree. Tayo’s friend Harley rides up on a... (full context)
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Tayo is content to sit with Harley in silence, but Harley is restless. Harley jokes about... (full context)
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...and beer. Yet Harley always finds a way to get his next drink. Harley convinces Tayo to go with him and ride the burro “up the line,” that is to the... (full context)
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Tayo and Harley set off for the closest bar, as the wind blows constantly. The burro... (full context)
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...Rocky and his plans to go to college and play football, so much so that Tayo feels as if Rocky is still alive and Tayo himself was the one who died... (full context)
Section 2
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When Tayo returns to New Laguna from the Veteran’s Hospital, Auntie takes care of him. Tayo knows... (full context)
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...still makes Rocky and Josiah’s beds when she comes into the room to check on Tayo. Tayo gets off his own bed so that Auntie can clean his sheets. Tayo tries... (full context)
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Old Grandma and Robert, Auntie’s husband, mostly leave Tayo alone as he recovers. Now that Josiah is dead, Robert must take care of all... (full context)
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...Grandma sends for Ku’oosh despite Auntie’s protests that a medicine man will reignite gossip about Tayo’s mother and her wild ways. When he comes, Ku’oosh sits at Tayo’s bedside and speaks... (full context)
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Ku’oosh asks Tayo about his experience in the white people’s war, and tells Tayo that Tayo has to... (full context)
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Tayo is dejected after Ku’oosh leaves, convinced that his actions in the war cannot be cured.... (full context)
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Tayo goes out with Emo and Harley to a bar with some other war veterans. The... (full context)
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The other veterans push Tayo to tell a story from the glory days as a Marine. Tayo stands and begins... (full context)
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Tayo knows that the other veterans use liquor and the attention of white women to feel... (full context)
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Tayo flashes back to carrying Rocky on a blanket in the Philippine jungle. Two Japanese soldiers,... (full context)
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Back in Tayo’s present, Harley checks to see if Tayo is feeling better yet after his “sunstroke” attack.... (full context)
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Tayo remembers Uncle Josiah telling him about this particular stream, when they were rinsing off with... (full context)
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Harley and Tayo continue toward the bar on their burro and mule. They finally flag down a truck... (full context)
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Tayo thinks about a time when he and Rocky went deer hunting. After they fell a... (full context)
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Rocky finishes gutting the deer, then he and Tayo each take a pinch of cornmeal to feed the deer’s spirit so that the deer... (full context)
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Back in the bar, Harley jokes with Tayo about how quiet Tayo is, though Tayo knows that Harley is really worried about the... (full context)
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In the bar, Harley laughs that Tayo was lucky not to go to jail for what he did to Emo. Tayo thinks... (full context)
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The other veterans laugh at Tayo as he silently drinks while they all talk. Tayo goes to the bathroom, thinking about... (full context)
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...Indian (because another soldier called him Geronimo) and fainted in Emo’s bed. Emo laughs, but Tayo can tell Emo is angry. (full context)
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Emo turns on Tayo and jeers at him for never telling any war stories. Emo then takes out a... (full context)
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Tayo feels as if the alcohol is loosening his anger, rather than numbing it. As Emo... (full context)
Section 3
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Rocky takes Tayo to an army recruitment meeting, where the recruiter seems disappointed to be talking to a... (full context)
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Tayo went to live with Auntie when he was 4 years old. He can remember small... (full context)
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When Rocky and Tayo started school, Rocky pulls away from everyone in the family. Tayo understands Auntie much better... (full context)
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...Sister back into harmony with the tribe once more. Instead of doing so, Auntie tells Tayo stories of his mother’s wild days and refuses to let Tayo keep a photo of... (full context)
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The army recruiter questions whether Rocky and Tayo are really brothers, due to Tayo’s green eyes, but Rocky insists. Rocky and Tayo enlist... (full context)
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A month before Tayo and Rocky graduate high school, Josiah makes a $500 deal with Ulibarri, a Mexican rancher,... (full context)
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Josiah and Tayo unload the cows at their pasture and the herd nervously clumps as far from the... (full context)
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...butterfly brand that the Mexican ranch used. Some of the cows have had calves, and Tayo can see the strong Hereford shoulders mixed with the hybrid cattle’s lithe athletic build in... (full context)
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...rumors, claiming that Old Grandma is scandalized by what the town is saying about Josiah. Tayo knows that Old Grandma does not care what people say about their family because she... (full context)
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That summer, Tayo and Josiah spend their days in the fields while Rocky ostensibly prepares for his football... (full context)
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Tayo thinks back to the day they buried his mother, a dry day much like the... (full context)
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The next day, Tayo sees storm clouds gathering by the mountain Tse-pi’na. All the ranch hands gather to watch... (full context)
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Tayo goes to Night Swan’s apartment in Cubero, hearing her Victrola play a Spanish record singing... (full context)
Section 4
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Returning to Tayo’s present, Tayo leaves Harley with yet another beer and walks out of the bar. Tayo... (full context)
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When Tayo gets back to the bar, Harley is gone. Tayo walks to Cubero and sits on... (full context)
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...clouds if the people get Old Buzzard to purify their town. The novel returns to Tayo in the present. He tells Robert that he is feeling better and can help Robert... (full context)
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Robert and Tayo take a trip to the city of Gallup and Tayo is reminded of the poverty... (full context)
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Tayo remembers when he was a little boy and lived under that same bridge with his... (full context)
One day, police come to clear out the settlements under the bridge while Tayo’s mother is out with a man. Tayo hides in a tamaric and willow grove and... (full context)
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In Tayo’s present, Robert and Tayo stop on the bridge in Gallup, avoiding the women who ask... (full context)
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Ku’oosh has sent Tayo to Gallup to see a medicine man named Betonie. Gallup is known for the Gallup... (full context)
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Betonie can see that Tayo is unsure of his eccentric ways, and tells Tayo he can leave at any time.... (full context)
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In the hogan, Tayo sees traditional medicine man paraphernalia as well as ceremonial objects and layers of old calendars.... (full context)
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...has come loose from his mustache and he carefully locks the hair in a footlocker. Tayo pretends he doesn’t know why Betonie would do that, but he remembers the old stories... (full context)
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Tayo tells Betonie about feeling like invisible white smoke when he was in the Veteran’s Hospital.... (full context)
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Tayo tells Betonie about seeing Uncle Josiah die in the Philippines, wearing a Japanese uniform. Tayo... (full context)
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Tayo tells Betonie about Night Swan’s hazel eyes and Auntie’s suspicions that Night Swan was evil... (full context)
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...to able to change or they will die and all mankind will die with them. Tayo wants to believe Betonie, but has trouble seeing the healing power in the junk cluttered... (full context)
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Betonie and Tayo walk outside, and Tayo comments on all the land in Gallup that was stolen by... (full context)
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Betonie introduces Tayo to his helper, Shush, whose name means “bear.” Betonie begins to tell a story, and... (full context)
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Betonie stops the story to remind Tayo that witchery is only responsible for a small portion of life. Good or bad are... (full context)
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Tayo starts to tell Betonie about Emo and Rocky, because he is reminded of them by... (full context)
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Betonie reminds Tayo that white people are not purely evil, they are simply one tool that the larger... (full context)
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Betonie, Shush, and Tayo ride on horseback into the foothills of the Chuska mountains outside Gallup. They set up... (full context)
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Tayo falls asleep and dreams about speckled cattle that constantly outrun him, heading south. When he... (full context)
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Betonie tells Tayo that the ceremony is not yet finished. Betonie draws a constellation in the dust, then... (full context)
Section 5
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Tayo leaves Betonie and hitchhikes back towards New Laguna. He stops at a gas station to... (full context)
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Tayo gets in the truck with Harley, as Helen Jean and Leroy laugh about how Harley... (full context)
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...purse. Harley picks it up for her, playacting at putting some on while Leroy and Tayo tease him for being “chickish muggy.” They all go into the bar and get a... (full context)
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Tayo dreams of old Betonie’s Navajo singing, until he is awakened by someone telling him to... (full context)
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...their courage in the war, so that they don’t have to remember their lost land. Tayo takes off walking, realizing he is in transition just like the boy called back from... (full context)
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Tayo goes home to New Laguna and waits to see one of the things Betonie mentioned... (full context)
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The woman undresses first herself and then Tayo. They sleep together and Tayo fully gives in to the pleasure of their bodies. That... (full context)
Section 6
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The woman serves Tayo breakfast then busies herself carefully packing specific rocks and plants in muslin packages. Tayo thanks... (full context)
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...logging companies. The white logging companies over hunt the land to feed their workers, and Tayo is sick at the lack of respect that white people show for this delicate environment.... (full context)
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As Tayo rounds another ridge, he sees his uncle’s cows in the distance. Tayo knows that the... (full context)
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Tayo rides along the fence until night falls and finds a spot next to a tree... (full context)
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As Tayo searches for the cattle, he realizes that he is completely within the present moment, not... (full context)
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Tayo lets the horse stop to drink water and is struck by a sudden bout of... (full context)
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When Tayo wakes up, he sees a mountain lion walk through the clearing in front of him.... (full context)
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Tayo finally catches up to the cattle again and starts to follow them as they head... (full context)
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Tayo wakes slowly, feeling as though he is waking in the Pacific again to a sun... (full context)
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...convince the Texan patrolman to go back to the truck so that they can help Tayo with his injuries. The Texan refuses, and forces Tayo to stand up and mount the... (full context)
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When Tayo wakes again, he feels comforted by the solid land underneath his body. He feels as... (full context)
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The next time Tayo wakes up, the patrollers are gone and there is a chill night breeze. Tayo can... (full context)
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Tayo gets up and walks southeast through the snow. He happily eats snow and thinks that... (full context)
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...in traditional clothing with his hair long, and has a buck slung across his shoulders. Tayo tells the hunter that he is looking for cattle and the hunter tells Tayo to... (full context)
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Tayo goes outside to help the woman shake snow off her trees so that the branches... (full context)
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The woman goes into the paddock to pet the cows, though Tayo is afraid of the large, half-wild animals. Tayo explains that his uncle wanted cows that... (full context)
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Tayo and the woman go back to the house and Tayo readies his horse to leave.... (full context)
Section 7
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The next spring, Robert and Tayo return to the woman’s house to collect the cattle, but the woman and the hunter... (full context)
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Tayo helps Robert and Pinkie care for the sheep, impressed at how well Pinkie seems to... (full context)
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Tayo dreams of the woman again, overwhelmed by his love for her. Tayo decides to go... (full context)
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As he approaches the ranch house, Tayo notes that the surrounding land is lightly green this year, neither the red of drought... (full context)
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When Tayo wakes, he thinks the woman was another dream. But he then sees her footprints clear... (full context)
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Ts’eh shares little more about her family, as if she expects Tayo to have already heard all the gossip about them. Tayo wants to ask about Ts’eh’s... (full context)
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...plants and describes them as all different colors of the sky. As Ts’eh gathers seedlings, Tayo considers breeding his cattle with a yellow bull owned by Romero, one of Tayo’s cousins.... (full context)
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Ts’eh needs just one more plant, and asks Tayo to gather it for her if she is not here when the time comes. Ts’eh... (full context)
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Robert comes to visit Tayo at the end of summer, and finds that Tayo is not planning to come home... (full context)
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Ts’eh and Tayo find a dead calf the next time they walk down the canyon. Ts’eh comments that... (full context)
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...beautiful ability to conceive new life and carry the next generation of elk. Ts’eh and Tayo visit where the elk is painted, though the paint is faded because no one has... (full context)
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Ts’eh builds a fire and starts to cry. Tayo can do nothing to comfort her, simply asking why she is crying. Ts’eh says she... (full context)
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As Tayo and Ts’eh watch the cows in the pasture, Ts’eh announces that they are coming to... (full context)
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Tayo wakes up feeling as if he is in the jungle, then realizes he is just... (full context)
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Tayo goes back to the road, looking for someone who doesn’t know about the recent questions... (full context)
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...drunk that Leroy can’t even open the truck door without falling out of the car. Tayo helps him get back in and sits in the back seat. Harley and Leroy are... (full context)
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...and Leroy have been driving around all night after starting at a bar in Gallup. Tayo doesn’t understand how they ended up going north on the Acoma road after starting in... (full context)
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A while later, Tayo wakes up in the truck, with Harley and Leroy gone. Tayo gets out of the... (full context)
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Tayo crawls through the barbed wire and finds a stream. He drinks, but notices that the... (full context)
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Tayo walks into the mineshaft, seeing the witchery’s pattern in the yellow striped rock. He realizes... (full context)
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Suddenly, headlights shine into the mine shaft and Tayo runs farther into the mine. Emo gets out of the car, and Tayo hears Pinkie... (full context)
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Tayo is cold and hungry hiding in the mineshaft, and he begins to wonder how long... (full context)
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Tayo creeps closer to the bonfire and holds the screwdriver in his pocket. Tayo realizes that... (full context)
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Tayo begins to plan how he can kill Emo with the screwdriver. Leroy and Pinkie begin... (full context)
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Tayo looks back up to the stars, unchanging no matter the time or place, as Emo,... (full context)
Section 8
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Tayo sits in a kiva with Ku’oosh and the other old men of the tribe. Tayo... (full context)
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...eat a hearty lunch and Ku’oosh builds up the fire in the kiva. Ku’oosh tells Tayo to stay in the kiva all night fasting. A story-poem describes how the man whom... (full context)
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Auntie avoids Tayo now that Tayo has visited Ku’oosh, saying that the other women from the church come... (full context)