"What You Pawn I Will Redeem" is most likely set around the time it was written and published, in 2003. There are several indicators of the time period throughout the piece. Sherman Alexie writes about several contemporary issues for Native Americans in the story, including racism, homelessness, poverty, uranium mining, alcoholism, and loss of identity. In an interview with WNYC studios, Alexie says,
I firmly believe in the power of stories to change the world, and I firmly believe in the power of one story to change one life at a time. I see it all the time with my work.
Alexie writes stories about contemporary problems faced by Native American youth in order to influence social change.
In addition, Alexie uses several indicators of contemporary popular culture to identify the setting of the story. For example, he mentions 7-Eleven. 7-Eleven is an easily identifiable place of commerce in today's society. The story says,
After about two hours of negotiating, we earned five dollars—good enough for a bottle of fortified courage from the most beautiful 7-Eleven in the world.
Alexie also mentions Real Change. He writes,
Real Change is a multifaceted organization that publishes a newspaper, supports cultural projects that empower the poor and the homeless, and mobilizes the public around poverty issues.
There are many more indicators throughout his writing, including Bainbridge Island Terminal, McDonald's, and Safeco.