Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

10: Leslie Marmon Silko (1948-)

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \(\newcommand{\avec}{\mathbf a}\) \(\newcommand{\bvec}{\mathbf b}\) \(\newcommand{\cvec}{\mathbf c}\) \(\newcommand{\dvec}{\mathbf d}\) \(\newcommand{\dtil}{\widetilde{\mathbf d}}\) \(\newcommand{\evec}{\mathbf e}\) \(\newcommand{\fvec}{\mathbf f}\) \(\newcommand{\nvec}{\mathbf n}\) \(\newcommand{\pvec}{\mathbf p}\) \(\newcommand{\qvec}{\mathbf q}\) \(\newcommand{\svec}{\mathbf s}\) \(\newcommand{\tvec}{\mathbf t}\) \(\newcommand{\uvec}{\mathbf u}\) \(\newcommand{\vvec}{\mathbf v}\) \(\newcommand{\wvec}{\mathbf w}\) \(\newcommand{\xvec}{\mathbf x}\) \(\newcommand{\yvec}{\mathbf y}\) \(\newcommand{\zvec}{\mathbf z}\) \(\newcommand{\rvec}{\mathbf r}\) \(\newcommand{\mvec}{\mathbf m}\) \(\newcommand{\zerovec}{\mathbf 0}\) \(\newcommand{\onevec}{\mathbf 1}\) \(\newcommand{\real}{\mathbb R}\) \(\newcommand{\twovec}[2]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\ctwovec}[2]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\threevec}[3]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\cthreevec}[3]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\fourvec}[4]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\cfourvec}[4]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\fivevec}[5]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \\ #5 \\ \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\cfivevec}[5]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \\ #5 \\ \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\mattwo}[4]{\left[\begin{array}{rr}#1 \amp #2 \\ #3 \amp #4 \\ \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\laspan}[1]{\text{Span}\{#1\}}\) \(\newcommand{\bcal}{\cal B}\) \(\newcommand{\ccal}{\cal C}\) \(\newcommand{\scal}{\cal S}\) \(\newcommand{\wcal}{\cal W}\) \(\newcommand{\ecal}{\cal E}\) \(\newcommand{\coords}[2]{\left\{#1\right\}_{#2}}\) \(\newcommand{\gray}[1]{\color{gray}{#1}}\) \(\newcommand{\lgray}[1]{\color{lightgray}{#1}}\) \(\newcommand{\rank}{\operatorname{rank}}\) \(\newcommand{\row}{\text{Row}}\) \(\newcommand{\col}{\text{Col}}\) \(\renewcommand{\row}{\text{Row}}\) \(\newcommand{\nul}{\text{Nul}}\) \(\newcommand{\var}{\text{Var}}\) \(\newcommand{\corr}{\text{corr}}\) \(\newcommand{\len}[1]{\left|#1\right|}\) \(\newcommand{\bbar}{\overline{\bvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\bhat}{\widehat{\bvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\bperp}{\bvec^\perp}\) \(\newcommand{\xhat}{\widehat{\xvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\vhat}{\widehat{\vvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\uhat}{\widehat{\uvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\what}{\widehat{\wvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\Sighat}{\widehat{\Sigma}}\) \(\newcommand{\lt}{<}\) \(\newcommand{\gt}{>}\) \(\newcommand{\amp}{&}\) \(\definecolor{fillinmathshade}{gray}{0.9}\)

    Essay 1

    Leslie Marmon Silko

    Kayla Forbes

    Leslie Marmon Silko is a Laguna Pueblo Indian woman known for her novels and poems. Self-identity is the main theme in her works. Silko is known to write about her Laguna Pueblo Indian culture and rituals. Silko is most known for her novels, Ceremony and Yellow Women. The one novel that stood out which is not as well known is The Man to Send Rainclouds. The Man to Send Rainclouds is about the relationship between Laguna Pueblo customs and Christianity. Self-identity and resistance are the two main themes of the short story. Silko’s family background is very important to her. Her family taught her about her identity and now it is an important theme in all of her stories.

    Growing up, self-identity has always been important to Silko. While Silko was growing up her family was passionate for her to know and embrace her Indian culture. The people who helped her most understand and embrace Laguna Pueblo Indian Culture were her grandmother and grandfather and many more. The most helpful was “ ‘Grandma Amooh,’ because of her Presbyterian conviction acquired at Carlisle Indian School, she told her family stories and community history, she refrained from telling creation mythology – the wealth of hummah-hah stories that Silko heard from Aunts Susie and Alice” (Knopf). She grew up hearing the traditional stories of Laguna people. According to scholars William Clements and Kenneth Roemer, “The most important lessons they taught Silko reflected the emphasis on the forces of continuity and adaptability in Laguna traditional culture - forces that their position in Laguna society and that of their Marmon ancestors had demonstrated, and which appear in Silko's poetry and fiction” (Clements 175). All of Silko pieces relate and consist of Laguna Tradition. She is a storyteller in all her works. All Silko pieces are also about her identity and her Laguna ancestry. She does not hide how she grew up and the culture she grew up in. Silko’s short stories and poems are about her background and the way she was raised which is very important to her.

    “You know I can’t do that, Leon. There should have been the Last Rites and a funeral Mass at the very least”.

    Silko’s first publication happened while in college at the University of New Mexico. She published the short story, The Man to Send Rainclouds. The Man to Send Rainclouds is a true story that happened in Laguna about the tensions between Laguna Pueblo customs and the Catholic Church. In The Man to Send Rainclouds, a man named Teofilo passes away and his family members Leon and Ken find his body. Leon and Ken bring Teofilo’s body back to their home to give him a traditional burial. The family was missing one important step for Teofilo’s burial. They were missing water from a priest, and the only way of receiving water was by asking the priest of the Catholic Church to put water on the burial. Father Paul did not want to give holy water to Teofilo because they did not do the burial in the correct Christian way. Father Paul ends up putting the water on the burial while questioning the rituals. Silko’s story shows resistance. Resistance is shown when the family does not do it the Catholic way. They stick with their rituals. They stick to their values and beliefs. Their identity of being a Laguna Pueblo Indian is very important to follow the traditions when someone passes.

    During the time Silko wrote these short stories tensions were high between Native American customs and Christian customs. She wants to resolve the tensions between them. “In ‘The Man to Send Rain Clouds’ the family decides to take a limited dispensation from Christianity—as much as will suit the demands of the community and align with the wishes of the departed individual '' (Devi and Singh). Silko wants her readers to destroy stereotypes of the Natives. I was raised as a Christian and learned so much about the religion. Reading The Man to Send Rainclouds helped me understand another custom. It was interesting reading how the Catholic Church and the Laguna Pueblo customs bury a body differently. One of Silko’s goals in writing her stories is to have other people learn more about her culture. I believe she achieves this goal because now I can understand more about her and the way she grew up.

    File:Headliner Leslie Marmon Silko at the banquet reading (6233509362).jpg  - Wikimedia Commons

    "Reading from her new memoir" by Uche Ogbuji is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.


    “Traditional ways have also continued, however, and despite her ancestors' negative impact on some aspects of Laguna tradition, Silko was made well aware of the Indian side of her heritage during her childhood. In addition to Grandma A'mooh, an important source of Laguna cultural knowledge for Silko was Susie Reyes Marmon, the wife of her grandfather's brother. Having attended both Carlisle Indian School and Dickinson College, Aunt Susie taught school at Laguna in the 1920s, while maintaining her commitment to the community's oral tradition. She handed that commitment on to Silko” (Clements 175).

    Work Cited

    Clements, William and Kenneth Roemer. "Leslie (Marmom) Silko." Native American Writers of the United States, Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 175, Gale, 1997.

    Devi, Babita and Divyajyoti Singh. "Silko’s Narrative Negotiation of the Rain Man’s Rites of the Passage." The Explicator, vol. 79, no. 4, 2021, pp. 160-5.

    Knopf, Kerstin. "Leslie Marmon Silko (1948-). Handbook of the American Short Story, edited by Erik Redling and Oliver Scheiding, De Gruyter, 2022, pp. 533-54.

    Essay 2

    Leslie Marmon Silko

    Jorjia Tsilibocos

    I chose Silko because she represents female empowerment and tried her best for people who don’t feel like they belong, that they do. Everyone needs a home.

    Silko had a very strong yet complicated relationship with her heritage but has always chosen to focus on her Native American ancestors/non-Indian relatives. The themes of her writing center the struggle of those with mixed blood to find acceptance/understanding of her work. Silko said “The core of my writing is the attempt to identify what it is to be a half breed or a mixed blood person; what is it to grow up neither white nor fully traditional Indian" (Clements 256). She is noting here how she understands first hand to not feel like she identifies fully with one culture versus another. This is where her constant theme of self identity and resistance come out. She understands the pain and hurt that comes with feeling like you don’t belong. Her writing is also noted to come from direct first hand experiences with her main influence being her great grandmother named Maria.

    As I started to learn about her literature, I started to grasp concepts between different yellow woman stories and the deep origin of how tradition works within the Laguna Pueblo. Tradition is important because it gives you a sense of understanding and true love. It gives you a way to connect with your ancestors. It makes you feel as though you belong, and you can pass on these traditions to your children. Tradition is created, so the ancestors can live on through their living relatives. This concept is vital in Silko's writing. Silko was just emphasizing the importance of not only tradition, but how you felt so deeply connected. One of her most famous literature pieces was entitled “Yellow woman”. It was said “Yellow Woman being abducted by a male spiritual being and sacrificing herself for the good of her people, or returning to the community. The analysis brings to the fore the beauty and richness of the story that is steeped in cultural lore, the land and its stories” (Knopf 28).

    All in all, there have been many themes regarding Silko and wanting everyone to read her novels to take home the most important thing. Everybody is special and uniquely built. No one is supposed to be exactly the same, because that would be boring. Silkos multiple yellow woman stories overall mean that all of these women felt that they did not belong because they didn’t identify with traditions. Either they were lured or forced with the mysterious man. Silko messages are still prevalent to this day. That is why I really liked learning about Silko and her writing style because I think everyone can relate to it and understand it.

    Work Cited

    Clements, William and Kenneth Roemer. "Leslie (Marmom) Silko." Native American Writers of the United States, Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 175, Gale, 1997.

    Knopf, Kerstin. "Leslie Marmon Silko (1948-). Handbook of the American Short Story, edited by Erik Redling and Oliver Scheiding, De Gruyter, 2022, pp. 533-54.

    10: Leslie Marmon Silko (1948-) is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?