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Literature Study GuidesCeremonySection 8 Floyd Lees Ranch Summary

Ceremony | Study Guide

Leslie Marmon Silko

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Ceremony | Section 8 (Floyd Lee's Ranch) | Summary



Tayo sets out in search of Josiah's lost cattle, because "there were transitions that had to be made in order to become whole again," and Tayo feels his wholeness is connected to the cattle Josiah died trying to find. During the scalping ceremony, Betonie had drawn a map of the stars, the memory of which Tayo now uses to navigate his way. He rides on horseback because the roads are too uneven for the truck. Deep in the woods, he asks a beautiful Native American woman if he can water his horse. Tayo notices the woman wears a blanket embroidered with storm clouds around her shoulders, which reminds Tayo of the native story Betonie told him of the Gambler, who stole the storm clouds and caused a long drought until they were freed. Looking up at the sky, Tayo sees the stars are in perfect alignment to Betonie's map, and he knows he's on the right track. After dinner Tayo and the woman have sex, and when he sleeps, he dreams about the cattle. In the morning, Tayo prays to the sunrise and eats a traditional Native American breakfast with the woman, admiring the dried leaves and flowers she has been collecting. After breakfast, Tayo thanks the woman and heads toward the mountains.

For generations, the land around the mountains had been Native American land, but it was recently sold to the National Forest Service, which then sold much of it to ranchers and loggers who used the land for their financial gain. Most built large fences around their land to keep everyone else out, as if it made the land theirs. Tayo never thought Josiah's cattle would have wandered this way, north, when their instincts always moved them south; but Betonie's stars led him in this direction. He rides his mare along the fence lines and suddenly sees Josiah's cattle. Their markings are unmistakable. Tayo quickly concocts a plan to cut a large hole in the fence and drive the cattle through it. He knows, however, that a white man—Floyd Lee—has hired patrolmen to monitor his land and ensure no one hunts on it, so he will have to be sneaky and quick to avoid detection. Once night falls, he works quickly, clearing a hole large enough for the cattle to pass through. He works even though his body is cold, tired, and sore, thinking about his relationship to white men, and the relationship white men have with Native Americans. When he finishes he realizes that over the past few days, he hasn't thought about the past, the war, his sickness, or even the ceremony: "This night is a single night; and there has never been any other." When he looks up from the hole, however, the cattle are nowhere to be seen.

Exhausted, Tayo falls asleep. When he wakes, a mountain lion prowls around him. Rather than feeling afraid, Tayo feels emboldened by the mountain lion, remembering its value as a great hunter. He prays to the animal and asks for its help. Moments later he spots the cattle. Tayo leaps atop his mare and rushes toward the cattle, scattering the herd, but they head in the direction of the cut fence. Tayo races after them, but the mare is somewhat unsteady in the dark, unfamiliar terrain. As they near the escape hole, Tayo begins to relax: "He had proved something to himself; it wasn't as strong as it had once been. It was changing." In that moment, Tayo sees the patrolmen headed toward him, and a sickening fear forces him to kick hard into the mare's side. She bolts off, but trips on the rocks, hurling Tayo off as she races away. When Tayo comes to, two white men stand menacingly over him. They demand to know what he's doing on Floyd Lee's land and accuse him of illegal hunting. Tayo can barely move. His body is bloody and broken. The men plan to take Tayo into town for arrest, but he vomits as they try to saddle him onto the horse. One patrolman leaves for the van while the other watches over Tayo. Tayo passes out and comes to when the van returns. The first patrolman saw the mountain lion tracks and would now rather hunt the mountain lion than bring Tayo in. They let him go, never discovering he freed the cattle. The experience leaves Tayo deeply angered: "He lay there and hated them ... for what they did to the earth with their machines, and to the animals with their packs of dogs and their guns." He sees how white men became destroyers. As he mounts his horse and rides down the mountain to search again for the cattle, the snow falls, and he knows their hunt for the lion will be fruitless. At the bottom of the hill he stops again at the woman's house and learns she has trapped his cattle. She reveals that it wasn't an accident that brought the cattle to Floyd Lee's land—the white man had stolen them.


At the end of the novel, the name of the woman Tayo meets on his journey is given—Ts'eh—but during their entire interaction this section, she is known simply as "the woman." Leslie Marmon Silko's works are known for their strong female characters, and by leaving the spiritual guide unnamed, Silko gives strength to all women, not just a singular character. In Pueblo societies such as Laguna, females are the storytellers. Traditional Western gender roles are subverted, as Laguna women are assertive, powerful, and "continuous," meaning their strong spirits carry through generations. Silko creates a thread of strong, spiritual women descending from the creator, Spider Woman, through the novel's other strong females: Betonie's grandmother, Night Swan, and Ts'eh (all of whom have green eyes).

This leg of Tayo's journey is all about reconnecting to his heritage and finding self-acceptance. Tayo must rely on old methods of navigation (the stars) and transport (his horse rather than his truck). He meets the beautiful woman who wears her hair "long, like the old women did, pinned back in a knot." She lives completely connected to the earth, collecting plants and leaves for various native ceremonies. She cooks in the traditional way, and speaks in the same rhythm as the medicine men. By sleeping with her, and giving himself fully—emotionally and physically—to the experience, Tayo takes his next step toward self-acceptance. He doesn't lust after white women, or Native American women dressing like white women; rather, he accepts and appreciates his own culture. In doing so, Tayo takes the woman as a spiritual guide, who nourishes him physically and emotionally. Without being told the purpose of Tayo's journey, Ts'eh mentions the sky is clear enough to see the stars.

The events surrounding the cattle's disappearance have strong parallels to the story of the Gambler that Betonie had recounted to Tayo. In Betonie's story, an evil character called the Gambler stole the storm clouds and locked them away, causing a terrible drought. He forced anyone who came to retrieve the clouds to gamble him for them, eventually taking everything from them. It is only the storm clouds' father who, after receiving tips from Spider Woman, is able to set the storm clouds free. In Ceremony, the Gambler clearly represents white America, which steals from native people, threatening to push them to extinction. The storm clouds' father, connected to the natural world physically and emotionally, is the only one who can set the clouds free, just as Tayo is able to free the cows after following the tips of a strong woman (Ts'eh) and reconnecting with his culture. The patrolmen are perfect examples of the Gambler's victims, causing harm to the natural world in an attempt to gain power. The patrolmen abuse Tayo and set out to hunt the mountain lion in the hopes of earning praise from their boss.Finally, this section highlights white America's exploitation of the natural world. Most of the land at the top of the mountains has been overtaken by logging companies, uranium miners, and cattle ranchers. All of these groups take everything they can from the land without giving anything back. Because they don't have relationships with the animals or land, they build controls, such as fences, to maintain control of what they don't understand.
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