Silko as a brilliant new Native American writer. The story brought her wide recognition as well as a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The story is based on an incident Silko had heard about in her hometown of Laguna, New Mexico: an old man had been found dead in a sheep camp and had been given a traditional Indian burial.
The local Catholic priest resented the fact that he had not been called in to officiate at the service. The story is admired for Silko’s masterful portrayal of the Indians’ quiet acceptance of death and for its highly controlled narrative. Silko is one of the major authors to emerge from the Native American literary renaissance of the 1970s. Born in 1948 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she grew up on the nearby Laguna Pueblo Reservation, where she was raised within a family of mixed Indian, Mexican, and white descent.
Life on the reservation was a daily balancing act of Pueblo and Christian ways. She majored in English at the University of New Mexico because, as she put it,’ I loved to read and write about what I’d read. The Man to Send Rain Clouds. Also, in 1985 her letters to and from James Wright were published as The Delicacy and Strength of Lace. 1969, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a poetry award from Chicago Review in 1974, and the Pushcart Prize for poetry in 1977.
As the story opens, Leon and his brother-in-law, Ken, find an old man, Teofilo, dead under a cottonwood tree. They ritually paint his face and take his body, wrapped in a red blanket, to their home for a traditional Pueblo funeral ceremony. On their way home, Leon and Ken encounter Father Paul, a young Catholic priest who expresses his sorrow that the old man had died alone. Teofilo’s funeral is performed in the traditional Native American way until Leon’s wife suggests to her husband that he should ask the priest to sprinkle holy water on the grave. The priest approached the grave slowly.