Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rainy Mountain

It was Kiowa Land

Back in the car after our inspection of the Babbs Switch memorial site, my family would have continued on our drive south from Sentinel on Highway 183.    Looking east over the vast expanse of flat prairie and farm lands,  our eyes would have been drawn to the low rise from the earth's surface of Rainy Mountain.   With an elevation of just 1,540 feet it is hardly a "mountain" as compared to those in other regions of the western  U.S., but it is, nevertheless, a distinct landform for this area of southwestern Oklahoma. 

Rainy Mountain has been significant in the lives of  many Native Americans, particularly recent generations of the Kiowa nation.  According to redriverhistorian.com, "Rainy Mountain is a powerful symbol to the Kiowa.  It symbolizes their sacred homeland, their final destination."   Kiowa ancestors migrated from their original home in western Montana to adopt a plains existence of hunting bison on horseback in the Dakota territory.   They later moved south to the central plains of the Kansas area.   Wars and treaties eventually relocated them to reservation lands near Rainy Mountain in Oklahoma Territory.  M. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa, has brought awareness of the mountain's significance to the rest of us in his much praised poetic book about the Kiowas, The Way to Rainy Mountain.   

Writing about  his trek to the top of Rainy Mountain, Tom Isern wrote :  

So the climbing of Rainy Mountain is not freighted with awesome religious consequence, as is, say, Devil’s Tower, or Uluru. Instead it is a matter of many smaller, stiller, personal significances.  The slopes, steep only near the top, are chert-littered and sparsely vegetated. Succulent and prickly things abound–yucca, hen-and-chicks, prickly pear–so watch where you sit. Watch where you step, too, for spaced here and there on the summit are little cairns and prayer circles of stone, markers of personal pilgrimage.  (www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/newsrelease/2002/013102/04plains.htm)   

He goes on to describe peering down the mountain slope to see the scattered ruins, foundations and walls of another school.

It was the Rainy Mountain Indian School.  


Just Stuff From a Boomer said...

I love following along with you on your travels. I've never heard of Rainy Mountain. Thanks for sharing it.

mary said...

Thank you for the encouragement. Getting words out is like pushing on a brick wall for me, so your comment is much appreciated!

Lyn Horner said...

I'm writing a western novel set mainly among the Kiowa near Rainy Mountain. Your description is very helpful.