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Junior describes his reservation as “located approximately one million miles north of...

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rmzlynn2015 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 14, 2013 at 2:27 PM via web

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Junior describes his reservation as “located approximately one million miles north of Important and two billion miles west of Happy.” Yet when he and Rowdy look down from almost the top of an immense pine, he says, “We could see our entire world. And our entire world, at that moment, was green and golden and perfect.” What forces drive the dichotomy of Junior’s perceptions of his world and allow him to see the land in apparently disparate ways?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 15, 2013 at 2:18 AM (Answer #1)

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Junior's dichotomy is reflective of what it means to be a Native American in the modern setting.  Alexie is fairly direct in being able to construct Junior as an embodiment of the modern Native American.  On one hand, Junior recognizes that there is much to dislike about the current condition of Native Americans.  There is a hopelessness regarding life on "the Rez" that is both general and specific to Junior.  He sees the hopelessness in so many of his people that he recognizes that he does not wish to succumb to that condition himself.  In a more particular way, he sees this in the pain of his parents and in the death of his sister.  The fact that White society has done a fairly good job of relegating the Native Americans to the periphery of society is something that Junior himself sees in "the Rez" and represents so much of his fundamental challenge with his own conception of what it means to be a "Native American."

However, Junior also realizes that there is an intrinsic value to being who he is.  This is seen in how Junior feels about his grandmother and how his reflection of her is impacted by how many other Native Americans feel the same way about her.  For Junior, how he feels about his grandmother as well as his own understanding for the historical condition of the Native American is where he does see value in his identity.  It is complex, but there is a sense of both reverence for what his past embraces and disdain for what it has become both by its own doing and how it has been discarded by others.  In this dichotomy is where Junior exists and it is a complex position about ethnicity and identity in the modern setting.

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