Around Valentine's Day, Junior goes through a series of unexpected and horrible difficulties in life. First, his grandmother dies. Then, his father's best friend is shot and dies. As a result, his father is on a bender, his mother is emotional and broken, and Junior is basically left, for a while, to take care of himself. As a result, he misses a lot of school.
When he finally returns, he enters late into Ms. Jeremy's class. Instead of having any sympathy for what he has recently gone through, Ms. Jeremy insults him in front of everyone. Junior is too emotionally defeated at this point to stand up for himself, as his culture usually dictates. And because he is not on the reservation, he doesn't expect anyone else to stand up for him either.
He is surprised, therefore, when Gordy, of all people, is the first to act out, and he does so by loudly dropping his text book on the floor. "He looked like a warrior. He was protecting me like Rowdy used to protect me" (175). Gordy's action inspires the rest of the class to do the same, and all of them walk out of the class in a display of defiance and disrespect toward the teacher.
In this moment, Junior feels a sense of connection to his white classmates as if they are his family. Instead of feeling different, and ostracized, and lonely, in this moment, Junior sees his classmates as part of his "tribe." This physical demonstration of standing up for Junior against a teacher (and someone who has insulted him) is exactly what Junior would expect to happen on the reservation, only not necessarily to him, because he is so ostracized even on the reservation. But the action itself is like something Indians would do for one another. And his white classmates do it for him. It is likely the first moment in his entire life that he has felt so accepted and loved by anyone other than his immediate family or Rowdy.
I walked out of the classroom and felt like dancing and singing.
It all gave me hope. It gave me a little bit of joy. (176)