Michael Horse

An older member of the Osage tribe, Horse is a foreteller and watches over the tribe’s sacred eternal fire. He writes down the history of the Osage people and tries to piece together the murders that have occurred. He feels very connected with nature and eventually goes to live among the Hill Indians to achieve greater understanding of the events in Watona.

Belle Graycloud

The matriarch of the Graycloud family and a prominent figure in the tribe, Belle lives on a farm in Watona. She raises her friend Lila Blanket's daughter Grace and, after Grace’s murder, takes in her daughter Nola. Throughout the novel, she is personally affected by the discovery of oil and the subsequent murders and disappearances. Belle is deeply spiritual and in one instance camps out in Sorrow Cave to stop hunters from shooting the sacred bats within. When a suspected oil deposit is discovered under Belle’s allotment, Jess Gold attempts to murder her. She survives, however, and goes into hiding among the Hill Indians, only returning once Hale is on trial for murder. At the end of the novel, she is forced to flee Watona with the rest of her family.

Moses Graycloud

Married to Belle, Moses is a quiet but strong man. He stands up to the Indian Agency when they reduce the royalty payments for full-blood Indians but wisely backs off before he is declared legally incompetent. He is one of several people who write to the US government, urging them to investigate the murders of wealthy Indians. Moses kills his brother-in-law, John Tate, after discovering that Tate has murdered his sister, Ruth Graycloud. Realizing that Tate was a member of Hale’s gang, Moses evacuates his family from the house just in time to save them from the bomb that destroys their home. Moses and his family leave Watona before he can be arrested for killing Tate.

Ruth Graycloud

Moses’s twin sister. She is married to a white man named John Tate but seems quite unhappy in her marriage. Belle observes that Ruth probably married out of loneliness rather than affection. Ruth is shot by her husband at the end of the novel.

John Tate

Ruth Graycloud’s white husband. Ruth’s brother, Moses, has never really warmed up to John Tate and suspects that Tate and Ruth have an unhappy marriage. Tate is very fond of taking photos. Eventually, it is revealed that he has been working with Hale and he shoots Ruth. He is then shot and killed by Moses Graycloud.

Lila Blanket

A river prophet from the Hill Indian settlement. Sensing that the river is in danger, she leaves her daughter Grace to be raised by her friend Belle Graycloud. Lila intended for Grace to become a bridge between the Hill Indians and the modern life in Watona. Eventually, she sends her other two daughters, Sara and Molene, to live with Grace.

Grace Blanket

Lila Blanket’s daughter who was raised by Belle Graycloud. Her allotment of land sits on top of the deepest oil vein in town, making her the wealthiest person in Watona. She has one daughter, Nola, but does not reveal who the father is. She is largely uninterested in the culture and traditions of the Hill Indians and prefers to use her oil money to live an opulent life of material comfort. She is murdered by Hale and his confederates at the beginning of the novel.

Sara Blanket

Grace’s sister and Benoit’s wife. Her marriage with Benoit is one of convenience—an arrangement understood by the rest of the tribe—and she does not object at all to Benoit’s romantic relationship with Lettie Graycloud. She is killed when her house is blown up. Benoit is wrongfully accused of murdering her.


Grace’s only daughter and the heir to Grace’s enormous fortune. As a child, she always felt a spiritual connection to nature that Grace did not. Nola witnesses her mother’s death and the Grayclouds take her in, fearing for her life. She remains in shock for a long time after her mother's murder and the event forever alters her personality. She is eventually sent away to school, where she is rebellious and difficult. Mr. Forrest is assigned to be the guardian over her fortune until she comes of age, though she mistrusts him greatly. Mr. Forrest’s son, Will, falls in love with Nola and she agrees to marry him even though she is only thirteen. After their elaborate wedding, Nola and Will move into a grand house and she becomes pregnant. Increasingly fearful and paranoid that Will and his father will eventually kill her for her inheritance, Nola snaps and murders Will. She flees to the Hill Indian settlement where she delivers her baby, a daughter.

Louise Graycloud

Daughter of Moses and Belle Graycloud and wife of Floyd. She initially is not very interested in her heritage but eventually rejects white culture completely after seeing the suffering of the people of Watona at the hands of white...

(The entire section is 2081 words.)