Having heard from Josiah that during dry spells holy men ride to the mountains and study the skies, Tayo gets up before dawn in the morning and rides to the canyon with the spring, concocting little rituals, and praying for rain. He watches the spider drink and thinks about the old stories, which he continues to believe at least to some extent, despite what his teachers tell him. On the way home, he sees a hummingbird. The next day it rains.

Josiah asks Tayo to take a note to Night Swan, since he won't be able to visit her that night. All summer, Tayo has felt Night Swan watching him. He is nervous. She invites him upstairs, and they make love. As he leaves, she tells him she has been watching him because of the color of his eyes, and Tayo comments that the kids have always teased him for having Mexican eyes. Night Swan tells him that people are just afraid of change and think that those who look different are to blame instead of realizing that change is all around. She also tells him to remember this day for later.


As with Emo's accusation of Tayo for loving the Japanese, we see with Auntie's mistrust of Mexicans that any alliance between the non-whites is problematic. They are as aware of the differences between them as they are of any common differences or problems they may have with the whites. Nonetheless, as they have long inhabited the same land, there is a certain bond between the Native Americans and the Mexicans. The bond is symbolized in the Mexicans' provision of bootlegged alcohol to the reservation; the Prohibition on alcohol is the United States is in effect.

In this section we have the first clear indication of where the novel is set, other than on a reservation in drought-wracked land. The reservation is in Arizona, near the border with the Mexican state of Sonora. The border between Mexico and the United States was not drawn with any concern for tribal boundaries, and so in fact the people on the two sides of border often share a common ancestry. However, in Mexico interracial children were so commonplace for such a long time, that most of the people in the lower classes have some degree of mixed ancestry, while in the United States racial segregation was more widespread. For this reason, when Night Swan recognizes that she and Tayo have the same color eyes, she indicates their common biracial status.

Josiah's cattle serve as another symbol of mixed ancestry. First, they are Mexican cattle bought by a Native American. In addition, Josiah breeds them with Herefords. The mixed offspring will, Josiah hopes, demonstrate the Mexican cattle's resilience to drought and the Hereford's rich milk and meat production. Josiah consults the US texts on cattle but finds them inapplicable to his situation, symbolizing the more general failure of the western scientific tradition to account for and to pertain to the specificities of the Native American experience. Josiah and Tayo care for the cattle together, so that they also become a symbol for Tayo's status as a productive member of the family.

Night Swan is the first of two symbolic women in Tayo's life. In addition to being Mexican and of mixed race, Night Swan is someone who has traveled in search of water, and she is a sexy older woman. She is in perfect control of her sexuality; aware of its power, is careful with it. Night Swan seduces Tayo to teach him a lesson about difference and change.