The Way to Rainy Mountain

The Kiowas Character Analysis

The Kiowas are a nomadic tribe of plains Indians that migrated to the southern plains (parts of present-day Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico) from western Montana in the seventeenth century. From the mid-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century, the Kiowas ruled the southern plains in alliance with the Comanches. They were nomadic warriors who preferred hunting to agriculture, they were masterful horsemen, and their religion—borrowed from the Crows—was centered on the sun. After their defeat by U.S. forces in the late 1800s, the Kiowas were confined to an Oklahoma reservation, and their traditional culture irrevocably changed.

The Kiowas Quotes in The Way to Rainy Mountain

The The Way to Rainy Mountain quotes below are all either spoken by The Kiowas or refer to The Kiowas. 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:
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of New Mexico Press edition of The Way to Rainy Mountain published in 1976.
Prologue Quotes

In one sense, then, the way to Rainy Mountain is preeminently the history of an idea, man’s idea of himself, and it has old and essential being in language. The verbal tradition by which it has been preserved has suffered a deterioration in time. What remains is fragmentary: mythology, legend, lore, and hearsay—and of course the idea itself, as crucial and complete as it ever was. That is the miracle.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker), The Kiowas
Related Symbols: Rainy Mountain
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
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The buffalo was the animal representation of the sun, the essential and sacrificial victim of the Sun Dance. When the wild herds were destroyed, so too was the will of the Kiowa people; there was nothing to sustain them in spirit. But these are idle recollections, the mean and ordinary agonies of human history. The interim was a time of great adventure and nobility and fulfillment.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker), The Kiowas
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
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Introduction Quotes

There is a perfect freedom in the mountains, but it belongs to the eagle and the elk, the badger and the bear. The Kiowas reckoned their stature by the distance they could see, and they were bent and blind in the wilderness.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker), The Kiowas
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Setting Out Quotes

A hundred years ago the Comanche Ten Bears remarked upon the great number of horses which the Kiowas owned. “When we first knew you,” he said, “you had nothing but dogs and sleds.” It was so; the dog is primordial. Perhaps it was dreamed into being.

Related Characters: The Kiowas, Comanches
Related Symbols: Horses
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Going On Quotes

The Kiowa language is hard to understand, but, you know, the storm spirit understands it. This is how it was: Long ago the Kiowas decided to make a horse; they decided to make it out of clay, and so they began to shape the clay with their hands. Well, the horse began to be. But it was a terrible, terrible thing.

Related Characters: The Kiowas
Related Symbols: Horses
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:
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Epilogue Quotes

The falling stars seemed to imagine the sudden and violent disintegration of an old order.

Related Characters: N. Scott Momaday (speaker), The Kiowas
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Kiowas Character Timeline in The Way to Rainy Mountain

The timeline below shows where the character The Kiowas appears in The Way to Rainy Mountain. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Memory and History Theme Icon
Nature, Landscape, and Animals Theme Icon
Momaday immediately introduces the arc of the story of the Kiowas, noting that their migration from the northern to the southern plains was one of adventure... (full context)
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Momaday introduces Tai-me without explaining what Tai-me is—he writes simply that Tai-me came to the Kiowas in a time of suffering and made their lives better. The Kiowa journey with Tai-me... (full context)
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Stepping back, Momaday explains that the story of Kiowa migration is not only the history of the Kiowas, but also the history of an... (full context)
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...the imagination is to tell an old story in a new way. For him, the Kiowa migration is a blend of history, legend, and personal and cultural memory—history and imagination, he... (full context)
Introduction
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...landscape of Rainy Mountain, which is a knoll (hill) in the Oklahoma plains where the Kiowas have lived for a long time. The weather here is harsh, but Momaday’s evocative description... (full context)
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...Momaday’s entry-point into the tribe’s history; she was born at the last great moment of Kiowa history, at the very end of their control over the southern plains. In this context,... (full context)
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Momaday then moves to give context for the mysterious history of the Kiowas, noting that they came from western Montana three hundred years beforehand, speaking a language that... (full context)
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...her whole life by Rainy Mountain in Oklahoma, she could tell stories of the historic Kiowa journey from Montana down to the southern plains. Momaday writes that he had seen these... (full context)
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Momaday begins at Yellowstone, where he describes the landscape as beautiful but crowded. The Kiowa understood themselves in relation to their landscape, and at Yellowstone they felt “bent and blind... (full context)
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...landform with striated edges that look like clawmarks. He recalls his grandmother’s recounting of a Kiowa legend about Devil’s Tower, in which a child turned into a bear and chased his... (full context)
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...became a Christian later in life, though she never forgot her history. She had attended Kiowa Sun Dances as a child, including the last Kiowa Sun Dance, held in the late... (full context)
The Setting Out
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...the voice of personal memory. It opens with the voice of the tribe, telling the Kiowa creation story, which is that the Kiowas emerged into the world from a hollow log.... (full context)
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The voice of tribal lore tells of Kiowa hunters who killed an antelope. Two chiefs then fought over the animal’s udders until one... (full context)
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Before the Kiowas had horses they had dogs, the voice of tribal lore recalls. Back then, a man... (full context)
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The voice of the tribe says that before the Kiowas had Tai-me, they lived in the mountains and told a story of a child who... (full context)
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...pomme blanche, a turnip-like plant. Momaday then quotes the anthropologist James Mooney, explaining that the Kiowas were always hunters and never attempted to cultivate crops. Momaday’s personal memories describe his grandfather... (full context)
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...by telling of a moment in which the U.S. troops were closing in on the Kiowas and trying to capture them. While the Kiowas camped it rained hard and spiders began... (full context)
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...was a day when Mammedaty rode a horse for the last time, and that the Kiowas had more horses per person than any other tribe. Momaday’s personal memory speaks of swimming... (full context)
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...are sacred, and they enable people to meet the world on their own terms. When Kiowas die they take their names with them, and nobody is allowed to speak those names... (full context)
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...and then the grandmother died. The twins lived long lives and were honored by the Kiowas. The voice of history then doubles back to the beginning of the story of the... (full context)
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...voice of tribal lore then begins to tell a story about lean times when the Kiowas were hungry. A man with hungry children walked for days to look for food, and... (full context)
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...the water’s edge. The voice of history then tells of the peyote ritual, where four Kiowas and a priest sit around a fire singing and drumming and praying before a midnight... (full context)
The Going On
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Well-made arrows have tooth marks on them, says the tribal voice, because Kiowas straighten arrows with their teeth. Once a man was making arrows at night and he... (full context)
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The tribal voice says that Kiowa is a hard language to understand, but the storm spirit understands it. Once the Kiowas... (full context)
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...the artist George Catlin, who spent a lot of time with Indians, thought that the Kiowas were better looking than the Comanches and Wichitas. The voice of Momaday’s memory describes Catlin’s... (full context)
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...then tells of a buffalo hunt, presumably in the 1920s or 30s, in which two Kiowas set loose a demoralized buffalo—one that did not at all resemble the wild ones of... (full context)
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...man betraying him by leaving him to starve. He was rescued by a band of Kiowas who brought him back to the camp, and they threw his wife away the next... (full context)
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...where it goes in winter. They rode after the sun farther south than any other Kiowas had been before, and one night after setting up camp they saw men with tails... (full context)
The Closing In
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...their word to free the captives. The voice of history then tells that when the Kiowas surrendered to the U.S. government, they were imprisoned and their horses and weapons were confiscated.... (full context)
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...away from a charge. The historical voice then describes a Sun Dance in which the Kiowas offered a spotted horse to Tai-me by leaving it to starve outside the medicine lodge.... (full context)
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...shoot that horse, but killed another instead. The voice of history notes that once a Kiowa captive escaped on a beloved hunting horse called Little Red, and the loss of that... (full context)
Epilogue
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In 1833, an especially bright meteor shower awoke the Kiowas and earned a special place in Kiowa history, as it is considered a marker of... (full context)
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Momaday then zooms out to place the golden age of the Kiowas from about 1740-1840, though the culture persisted in decline until the late 1800s. Momaday writes... (full context)