Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Because Lynn Riggs uses a nonlinear structure in his play, several of the characters reappear at different ages at different times of their lives. In the first scene, there is a large ensemble, and some of the characters present there also are involved with each other in subsequent scenes.
One key character, John Gray-Wolf, is referenced throughout the play but rarely appears. He is presented as a heroic Cherokee of the bygone times of the late nineteenth century.
Viney Jones, a Cherokee woman, received an education in white schools and subsequently became a teacher. She represents assimilated Native people who reject their own birthright and have been corrupted by the negative values of white society. Her husband is white, and she generally passes as white.
Sarah Pickard, unlike her sister Viney, has remained in Claremore and did not enter white society. Not only does her poverty starkly contrast with Viney’s relative financial comfort, it has contributed to her illness.
Bee Newcomb, a biracial white-Cherokee woman, works as a barmaid and a prostitute. When she is drawn into a plot to trick Art into admitting his crime, she cannot reconcile her desire for money with her racial loyalties.
Gar Breeden is Bee Newcomb’s half brother. Edgar Breeden is their father.
Art Osburn is a Native American man who marries a white woman. Unable to reconcile himself to her way of life or to care for her children, he kills her.
Old Man Talbert
Old Man Talbert is a Cherokee man who desperately seeks connections with the old ways. Suffering from dementia, he thinks he is living in an earlier era of active warfare. He obsessively collects arrowheads from Indian graves.
Kate Whiteturkey is an Osage woman who benefited from the oil boom. She and her husband, Hutch Moree, own expensive items such as silk shirts and even several cars. Kate does everything possible to distance herself from Native lifeways.