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Free Study Guide for House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday-Summary
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The setting is a Native American reservation in New Mexico and a neighborhood in Los Angeles, California from 1945 to 1952.


Major Characters


The protagonist of the novel, he lives on a reservation in New Mexico with his grandfather, his mother and older brother having died, until he goes to war. He comes home and commits murder. He is put into jail for six years and is relocated to Los Angeles, California where he works in a factory for a short time and then is beaten severely and returns to the reservation.


Abelís grandfather, he is an elder of his tribe as well as a sacristan of the Catholic church.

Father Olguin

The priest of the mission in the town where Francisco lives.

Rev. J. B. B. Tosamah

The Priest of the Sun, a Native preacher who preaches in a basement of a building in Los Angeles.

Minor Characters

Mrs. Angela Grace St. John

A woman who comes to the church and speaks to Father Olguin. She lives in Los Angeles and visits the valley of San Juan de San Diego. She has a brief affair with Abel.


Abelís brother who dies as a boy.

Nocolas teah-whau

An old woman with a white mustache and a hunched back who bets for whisky on the side of the road when Abel is a child. She is said to be a witch. She curses Abel when he is a boy.

Juliano Medino

A man whose house Abel and Francisco visit for a gathering of people, dancing and prayers.

Medinoís daughter

A girl who has sex with Abel the night of the gathering.


The chief of the Eagle Watchers Society and member of a people from the Tanoan city of Bahkyula who had been so defeated by European-American encroachment that their numbers dwindled to twenty before they were taken in by another group of people. As a result they developed a keen sense of humility and pride.

John Raymond

The rancher whose horse Abel had trained.

San Juanito

One of the Eagle Watchers Society who catches an eagle on the same day Abel does.


A boy who helps Father Olguin in the church.

Martin St. John

Angelaís absent husband.


A saint of the Catholic church whose story Father Olguin tells. He is the saint of the Pueblo people.

Father Nicolas

A priest who served the parish in the late 1800s whose old journals Father Olguin reads. Nocolas was Franciscoís priest when Francisco was a boy.

Juan Reyes

An albino Native American born in 1875 to Manuelita and Diego Fragua, of Franciscoís age.

Porcingula Pecos

A lover of the young Francisco, whom Father Nicolas thinks is evil.

Cristobal Cruz

Tosamahís disciple.

Fat Josie

An elderly woman who cures Abel of his back problem and who tries to cure him of his grief over his mother and brotherís death by acting silly in front of him.


A social worker who has an affair with Abel.

Napoleon Kills-in-the-Timber

The drummer at the peyote ceremony.


Tosamahís grandmother, a Kiowa.


The man who brutally hits Abelís hands in the alley. He is a police officer. He is probably the one who beats Abel severely. The people call him culebra (snake).

Old woman Carolzini

A woman who lives in Benallyís building.

Mercedes Tenorio

A woman who dances with turtle shells and calls out like an old- timer.


A man who runs a bar which Benally and Abel frequent.


The foreman at the plant where Benally and Abel work.


The Soldier who testifies on Abelís behalf at his murder trial.

Corporal Mitch Rate

One of the three survivors of Abelís regiment.


A girl at Cornfields with whom Benally dances at the corn blossom dance and whom he never forgets.


Millyís husband who leaves her after their daughter is born.


Millyís daughter who dies of a fever when she is four years old.


A man who runs the trading post on the reservation at Wide Ruins.

Sam Charley

A boyhood friend of Benallyís who goes with Benally to the corn blossom dance.


Angela St. Johnís son.

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