Thomas King shows education as important in several ways. One significant factor is the distinction between knowledge, which encompasses Native American traditions that include orally transmitted tales and myths as well as ceremonies. Formal education is often shown as a way of separating indigenous and white characters. While some of the Native people desire to expand their horizons beyond the reservation, others deem those ambitions as dangerous because of the identification of education with assimilation or abandoning their people and customs. However, applying education to furthering knowledge about Native history is also presented as a meaningful ambition.
The character of Alberta is the one most closely associated with formal, academic education. She has pursued her dream through higher education, becoming a university professor. Her field of research is Native history, focusing on 19th-century US government policies and practices toward Native peoples with particular emphasis on one place of incarceration, Fort Marion. Alberta’s achievements are shown as especially significant because her former husband, Bob, had pushed her to stay at home.
Lionel is another character for whom education is important, but he comes into conflict with his aunt, who sees becoming educated as acting white. Lionel left college against his will when he was arrested for alleged involvement with Indian activism. He aspires to obtain his college degree. In contrast, his cousin Charlie completed law school and became an attorney. The differences between the men are accentuated in their courtship of Alberta.