House Made of Dawn By N. Scott Momaday Summary and Analysis Part 1: 20-Jul

This section describes the reunion of Francisco and his grandson, Abel, who is a returning veteran of World War II. The section opens with a descriptive passage in present tense, suggesting the eternal beauty of the landscape. Then, moving into the past tense designating a specific event, the narration begins to follow Francisco. Riding his horse-drawn wagon from his home in the village of Walatowa to the bus stop, Francisco hums a traditional song. He pauses to check a snare he has set for a bird; the snare has caught a sparrow rather than one of the gaudier species he wants — a blue jay or a tanager — for a prayer plume. After discarding the sparrow and resetting the snare, he drives on. At a place called Seytokwa, the old man remembers a ceremonial race that he had run as a young man; he had beaten another runner named Mariano and had struck the exhausted Mariano away as he himself ran exuberantly into the central square of the village. Later, Francisco had recorded this race in a diary of words and pictures that he kept in a ledger book. He arrives at the bus stop, and his grandson, Abel, gets off. Abel is drunk and Francisco helps him into the wagon and sets out for home.

Glossary

tamarack a North American larch, of the pine family; the name is thought to be of Algonquian origin.

mesa a flat steep-sided hill.

piñones pine trees and the edible nuts harvested from them.

prayer plume an offering to the spirit(s) of a certain place, made by tying feathers to a specially painted and/or carved stick, reed, or other support. The making of prayer plumes is prescribed ritual, from the type of knots used to the words said when putting the offering together.

, bien hecho Yes, it's well made (Spanish).

Yo heyana oh . . . chorus vocables from a traditional song.

Abelito diminutive form of "Abel" in Spanish, showing closeness, affection.

tarda mucho en venir a long time coming (Spanish).

Vallecitos literally, small valleys. Here, it is the name for a small lumber camp near Jemez.

Seytokwa an older settlement of the Jemez people, now uninhabited.

Se dió por vencido He gave up (Spanish).

the Middle the central plaza of the village.

ledger book a book ruled and lined to keep accounts. A number of Plains Indians of the nineteenth century used ledger books in which to record in pictures the history of important events in their tribe; for instance, there is a ledger book account of the battle at the Little Big Horn.

Cuba and Bloomfield road Cuba and Bloomfield are small New Mexico towns.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

A few months after his birth, author Navarre Scott Momaday was given the Kiowa Indian name




Quiz