In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Sherman Alexie is trying to show the trade-offs experienced by Native Americans who are caught between two cultures. On the one hand, Reardan opens up a better education to Junior and knowledge of a wider world. It can lead him to greater economic and educational opportunity and an opportunity to excel as a basketball player.
Although Junior makes friends at Reardan, he also experiences discrimination and gets a first-hand sense of economic inequality. He also becomes alienated from the community on the reservation. As Alexie portrays the issues of alcohol abuse and violence that is endemic on the reservation, he also shows that the "best and the brightest" need to leave in order to obtain proper educations and must work outside their community to earn high wages, which contributes to a decline in the quality of reservation life and a loss of traditional culture. He also shows a strong sense of community and belonging and spiritual connection among the people on the reservation.
Although Junior does eventually reconcile with Rowdy, there is a sense at the end of the novel that Junior has become a liminal character, caught between two cultures but not able to fully belong to either. Thus Junior's choice is not portrayed as completely positive or negative, but rather as a mix of both.