Part 1, Section 1

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Last Updated on February 4, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1049

1922, Oklahoma. On an Indian reservation, the hot summer has prompted residents to take their beds outside. One grandmother, Belle Graycloud, is sleeping in her garden; just down the road, in Watona, Grace Blanket and her daughter, Nola, are also sleeping outdoors. Grace is a Hill Indian, but she doesn't live with the rest of her people—instead, she has ventured into the town to live with the mixed-blood peoples. Her mother, Lila, had been a diviner, and she had received wisdom that her daughter would have to go and learn how other people lived in order for the Hill Indians to survive. So Grace came first to live with Belle and then bought a place of her own. Her sisters, Sara and Molene, were then sent to live with her; but they both quickly grew ill, and Molene died, while Sara was permanently weakened.

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The land Grace lived on went from "Barren Land" to "Baron Land" when oil was discovered there. Michael Horse, a diviner, thought there was water there, but oil was found instead, and subsequently Grace became extremely wealthy. She had a child, whose parentage she would not reveal. As it turned out, her move to town had saved the Hill Indians after all: the discovery of oil saved the river from being dammed, which would have destroyed the reservation.

Now, Grace brings her daughter, Nola, to the Grayclouds' house. Belle's unmarried daughter, Leticia (Lettie) makes them tea.

Michael Horse drives his gold car to the Indian Baptist Church—an unusual event, as he is a non-believer. The Reverend Joe Billy and his wife, Martha, are pleased to see him; Michael only has eyes for Belle, whom he loves. Belle tells him she has had a premonition that "the girls are in trouble," which concerns Michael. He allows Belle's grandson, Ben, to drive his car back to Belle's house.

Belle's husband, Moses, tells them he is going to see his sister, Ruth Tate, and her husband. Belle explains that she is worried because Grace, Nola, and Nola's cousin, Rena, had gone out that morning and not returned. Michael suggests they go and look for the group, so they drive to Grace's house, which is empty. When they return home, Moses has come back from Ruth's house, but the girls have not returned. Belle and Lettie wait while Moses and Michael go to the livestock auction in the next town. Eventually, Rena and Nola return home—alone.

The girls explain what had happened. As they were walking out into the country, a man called John Hale nodded at them. Later, a black Buick pulled up near them, which John Hale was driving. Grace, afraid, told Rena and Nola to get on the ground, then approached the car to "lure" it away from the girls. The men shot Grace, then left her body in the grass. Nola heard them say that they had thought Nola was with her. The men poured whiskey on Grace's body to create the impression that she was drunk. Rena and Nola, terrified, set out for home.

Belle, Lettie, and the girls are unable to sleep. When Moses returns, he is horrified by the news. Lettie is watching over the girls with a pistol when she sees an unfamiliar man outside the window; she goes to shoot him but then realizes that he is "there for Nola, to help her"—a watcher. Rena's mother, Louise—an alcoholic—and her white husband, Floyd, arrive and try to comfort Rena. By this point, other watchers have arrived.

Belle visits Michael Horse in his teepee and asks if he has had any other visions. They tell Ona Neck, an older woman, what has happened. Indian women very frequently become oil heiresses, and white men marry them as "business investments," so all are sure that Grace has been murdered somehow for her oil—to which Nola is now heiress.

A French-Indian, Benoit, arrives in a truck. He is the husband of Sara Blanket but the lover of Lettie. He is shocked that Grace has been killed and wants to get the...

(The entire section contains 1049 words.)

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Part 1, Section 2