Ken is the brother-in-law of Leon and a minor character in the story. Like old Teofilo and Leon, he also believes in following Indian ways, and he helps his brother-in-law any way he can.
Leon is Teofilo’s grandson. He manages to integrate American Indian ways and Christian ways; he is a Christian who still respects his roots and cultural heritage. He smiles as he paints his dead grandfather’s face according to the Native American custom and believes that the old man’s spirit will bring rain. He is a man of few words and has a calm, strong sense of dignity. After finding Teofilo’s body, Leon does not talk about it. At home, Leon informs his family of Teofilo’s death with few words. The fact that he is able to persuade the priest to sprinkle holy water at the grave site with a few well-chosen words—without argument—reveal his character.
Louise is Leon’s wife. Efficient and capable, she plans Teofilo’s funeral and suggests to Leon that it would be appropriate to use holy water to symbolically quench the thirst of the old man. Although her part is minor, it is her suggestion that triggers the culture clash in the story.
Father Paul is a young Catholic priest struggling to lead a parish on an Indian reservation. He has affection and respect for his parishioners, as seen in his concern for old Teofilo. He also understands that the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law. Although he is troubled by the persistence of Indian customs in his parish, he learns to adapt to them. When Leon asks him to use holy water at Teofilo’s burial service, he at first refuses, but he later sprinkles the water on the grave.
Teofilo is “the man to send rain clouds,” the old man who is found dead under the big cottonwood tree. Teofilo is perhaps the most important character in the story, since the plot concerns the conflict that arises after his death between American Indian ways and Christian ways. A Native American living on a reservation in New Mexico, he was fiercely independent. He adhered to both the new and old ways: he wore mainstream American clothing, but also wore his white hair long in the traditional Indian manner and still believed in the old ways. He made new moccasins for the ceremonial dances in the summer and was not keen on going to church. Teofilo was old and well respected, as evidenced by the affection shown him by Leon and his family.
Ira Mark Milne (Editor), Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 8, Leslie Marmon Silko, Published by Thomson Gale, 2000.