Kiowa Images, Stories, and Human/More-than-human Relations in Alfred and N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain
Keywords:native American literature, N. Scott Momaday, Al Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain, Kiowa art, pictographic history, interspecies relations
Drawing from the pictographic traditions and interspecies relations of the Kiowa as well as from N. Scott Momaday’s own theories of language, vision, and the creative imagination, this article aims to broaden our understanding of the memoir The Way to Rainy Mountain as a verbal/visual collaboration between Kiowa painter Alfred Momaday and his son, N. Scott. The stories and images rendered in the book strongly establish the Kiowa in relation to a particular cultural landscape, to visual/oral forms of memory, and to the animals and more-than-human beings that endow them with meaning. To further understand these two sets of relations, the sacred interdependence between images/words and human/more-than-human beings in the Kiowa tradition, I first situate the revision of history, place, and ceremony carried out by the Momadays within a tribal-specific intellectual framework. To that end, I consider the visual modes and practices that were traditionally engaged by the Kiowa and which are reinserted by the Momadays in their text as a form of anti-colonial resurgence. Such strategies contributed to decolonizing textual spaces and tribal representation in the late 1960s through their blurring of Western disciplines and through the spiritual interconnection of human, more-than-humans and place at a time when Native American religions were banned. Words and images in The Way to Rainy Mountain are preeminently relational and place-based; they engage with the land and the multiple beings that dwell on it at material and spiritual levels that cannot be set apart. Shaped by traditional Kiowa epistemology and social practice, Rainy Mountain’s illustrations depict more-than-human beings and interspecies relations which, understood as both material and sacred experience, lead to creative vision and cultural resurgence in this groundbreaking text.
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