In "Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven", who is Big Mom, and what does she give Victor? What is Victor's relationship with religion and tradition?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Big Mom is "the spiritual leader of the Spokane Tribe", a woman who has visions and dispenses "good medicine" to the Indians.  After they have spent the night with friends experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs, Victor and Junior are parked in front of the Trading Post when they are approached by the woman.  Big Mom gives Victor a little drum, which "look(s) like it (is) about a hundred years old, maybe (is) so small it could fit in the palm of (his) hand".  Big Mom tells Victor to keep the drum, "just in case".  She says it is her "pager", and if Victor would just "give it a tap...(she'll) be right over". 

Victor never uses the drum, and although Big Mom dies awhile later, he "keep(s) it really close...just in case".  He calls the drum "the only religion (he has)", and senses that if he should one day decide to play it even a little, "it might fill up the whole world".  The drum is representative of the rich culture of knowledge, religion, and tradition which Victor, and Indians in general, have lost.  Crushed by the oppression of white society and separated from their past, young Indian youths like Victor now seek to validate their manhood with drugs and alcohol.  Through the symbol of the little drum, Big Mom is offering an alternative - a return to the old ways which, if pursued, has the power to change the world ("A Drug Called Tradition").

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