What is the purpose of the drug in the story "A Drug Called Tradition" in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven?
A major theme in this short story collection is the way that indigenous American culture has been destroyed and annexed, leaving the remaining indigenous Americans culturally divorced from the wealth of their cultural heritage an struggling to find their identity in a world where they are expected to conform to white American values and principles. In "A Drug Called Tradition," the drug that Thomas, Junio and Victor take clearly is meant to restore this cultural heritage and identity to these characters. Note the nature of the visions: they earn their adult Indian names through the initiation test of stealing horses. The drug, therefore is a way of linking the present with the past, and also the future, which is something that is strongly suggested through the very fluid treatment of time that is shown to bleed into the present. This is supported by Victor's assertion about time:
Your past is a skeleton walking one step behind you, and your future is a skeleton walking one step in front of you.
The drug therefore allows such a fluid relationship with time to be established, as the present indigenous peoples are able to reach back in time and create a meaningful link with their past cultural heritage that serves to give them identity and purpose in their present.