The Way to Rainy Mountain | Study Guide

N. Scott Momaday

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The Way to Rainy Mountain | Chapter 11 : The Setting Out | Summary



This ancestral paragraph is another lengthy one. It recounts a story of two brothers who were hungry and came upon food. One brother ate, and he was transformed into a "water beast with little short legs and a long, heavy tail." The historical paragraph details a Kiowa peyote ritual in which participants eat peyote around a fire. There is praying, singing, and music, and it lasts all night. The personal paragraph relates that the author's grandfather (Mammedaty) was a "peyote man." Mammedaty once went to the river, and "the water began strangely to move against him." He ran, and later he saw tracks of an animal on the bank. The line "some awful commotion beneath the surface" is repeated on the next page along with another illustration, this time of a water beast.


The topic of peyote rituals is one the reader would do well to approach with respectful caution. There has been much controversy around peyote, but for the Kiowa (and Comanche), this was a religious experience. The Kiowa and Comanche were reputedly the most active in their embrace of this religious experience. The peyote ritual was central to the Native American Church. Consequently, it was protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ritual itself is depicted in detail in this segment. In essence, it includes hallucinogenic plant material, music, and a lengthy ritual wherein the participants sing.

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