The most important characters in The Education of Little Tree are as follow. First there is Little Tree himself who has just been orphaned by the death of both his parents when the story opens. He chooses to go live with his grandparents.
His grandparents are Cherokee and Little Tree calls them Granpa and Granma. Willow John is a friend of the family who has known Granpa and Granpa a long time. He helps in the education of Little Tree but he also learns from Little John that there is renewed hope for another generation to learn to live in harmony with the land in accord with the old Cherokee ways by honoring Nature.
Mr. Wine is an old peddler who travels through the mountains selling his wares. He teaches Little Tree that education comes in two parts. The first part is learning something to provide yourself a living with, like peddling goods or growing food. The other part is values you believe in, like treating people justly and decently; doing your best and being frugal and honest.
The lawyer, Mr. Taylor, gives Little Tree a hard lesson. When the government agents discover that Granpa is making illegal whiskey in the mountains, they take action to have Little Tree removed from their care. Granpa goes with the government papers he received into town to consult with M. Taylor. After reading the papers, Mr Taylor says it's hopeless, there is no way to fight: the government will relocate Little Tree. Little Tree learns that in life the mightiest overpowers the weaker.