What is the importance of Willow John in The Education of Little Tree?

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bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several of the minor characters show Little Tree that the connection between the past and the future are linked and can't be broken. Willow John, along with Mr. Wine, helps educate Little Tree to understand that only through knowledge of their past can they discover the key to their future. Willow John, an old Cherokee friend of Granpa and Granma, symbolizes the old ways of Native Americans before white people came and forced them off their land. He lives in the past when people respected nature and honored it. Although Willow John teaches Little Tree about his heritage, Little Tree also teaches Willow John that there is hope for man to learn how to respect and honor nature.