Throughout the story "Indian Education," there is only one mention of the narrator's cousin, Steven Ford, but the idea of this character is present throughout the narrative.
When in fifth grade, the narrator, Victor, "picked up a basketball for the first time" and thought about "all those possibilities and angles. It was mathematics, geometry. It was beautiful." However, he quickly contrasts his decision to dedicate himself to basketball to his cousin, who "sniffed rubber cement from a paper bag and leaned back on the merry-go-round. His ears rang, his mouth was dry and everyone seemed so far away."
Throughout the rest of the story, Victor attempts to make something of himself through basketball. He goes to the white high school and is a star on the basketball team. The reader is left assuming that Steven Ford was still on that symbolic merry-go-round getting high with "that buzz in his head, all those colors and noises."
But Victor seems to not blame Steven Ford, as tragedy follows Indians. He describes how a state trooper is confused as to why another Indian, Wally Jim, killed himself. Victor explains that the Indians "look in the mirror, see the history of [their] tribe in [their] eyes, taste failure in the tap water, and shake with old tears."
While Victor makes it off the reservation, Steven Ford is indicative of the Indians who have "a reunion every weekend at the Powwow Tavern."