illustration of main character, Junior, holding a basketball and looking over his shoulder

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie

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Why does Rowdy call Junior a nomad in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?

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Rowdy calls Junior a nomad because Junior is leaving the reservation. Their ancestors were nomads, and Rowdy believes that that Junior retains these qualities deep in his soul. Although Rowdy is upset at the departure of his friend, he is coming to terms with its inevitability.

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Rowdy calls Junior a nomad because Junior is following in the footsteps of their ancestors. In the book, Rowdy labels Junior a nomad toward the end of the story.

After looking up the word "nomadic" in the dictionary, Rowdy concludes that the conventional definition of the word no longer fits...

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Native Americans today. He tells Junior that most Native Americans prefer staying on the "rez," so they can no longer claim the distinction of being nomads.

However, Rowdy maintains that Junior has retained that nomadic heritage in his soul. He confesses that he had a dream months ago about Junior standing on the Great Wall of China. Rowdy tells Junior that he had always known his friend would leave the reservation.

Rowdy then tells Junior that he's an "old-time nomad" and that he will always roam the world in search of greener pastures. For his part, Junior thanks Rowdy for his support. He promises to send Rowdy postcards from wherever he is.

This touching exchange between the two friends at the end of the novel is significant. Rowdy's words show that he no longer holds Junior's decision to leave against him. In other words, Rowdy has come to accept that Junior's decision is based on an ancient tradition that will never die.

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A nomad is a person who wanders from place to place. Sometimes nomads move according to the seasons.

In this case, Junior fits the definition. Rowdy called him a nomad with the intention of being derrogatory. He wanted Junior to feel bad for leaving the Rez behind and moving into white culture. What's interesting is that Junior moved to Reardan High according to a season of his life. Attending a public school off the reservation would compliment his ability to be educated.

Maybe Rowdy was jealous of Junior's escape, but the put-down certainly fits their relationship. Rowdy wants to see Junior maintain the culture of Native Americans, even though the picture of Rowdy's life given to the audience by the author is not particularly positive.

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Why does Rowdy call Junior a nomad?

Toward the end of The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian, Rowdy and Junior have a heart-to-heart conversation during a one-on-one basketball game, during which Rowdy calls Junior a nomad for leaving the Rez.

A nomad is a person with no fixed home location. Nomads travel from place to place, often in accordance with seasonal changes. Junior and Rowdy's ancestors were nomads before the government forced their people to become sedentary and live on reservations. In fact, Rowdy has been learning about the nomadic ways of his ancestors. By calling Junior a nomad, Rowdy is alluding to their heritage. Like his nomadic ancestors, Junior is traveling from place to place. Rowdy points out that most Indians have given up their nomadic past by preferring to live on the reservations. Junior, on the other hand, retains nomadic qualities in his soul. Rowdy tells Junior that he will always be a nomad, traveling from place to place his whole life. That's just who Junior is.

Although he cultivates a tough-guy persona, Rowdy has a sensitive side as well as abandonment issues. He is hurt that his good friend is leaving him and the Rez. At the same time, he understands that Junior is following in the footsteps of past generations of Indians. By calling Junior a nomad, Rowdy has come to accept the reality that Junior is not meant to stay on the reservation forever.

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