Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie

Start Your Free Trial

Download Reservation Blues Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapter 2 Summary

Victor and Junior agree to join Thomas in a band. Victor will play Robert Johnson’s acoustic guitar. Junior will be on drums. Thomas will play the bass guitar and be the lead singer. The trio practices in an abandoned, boarded-up building on the reservation called Irene’s Grocery Store. The sound of music attracts locals, and soon the band is rehearsing in front of an audience. As word spreads, Native Americans from other reservations begin to show up. Even White people come to hear the new band.

Not everyone is impressed with the music, though. Local Catholics complain to the reservation priest, Father Arnold. They tell him rock and roll is the music of the devil. Father Arnold, who was once in a rock and roll band after graduating from college, calms his parishioners by telling them he thinks God does not really worry about music. God has more pressing issues to deal with, such as poverty and famine. Father Arnold is a White man who has learned to adjust to life on the reservation. When he first came to Washington, he knew next to nothing about Indian culture. At first he felt disappointed to not find buffalo roaming on the land. The local people informed him that buffalo were part of the culture of the Plains Indians, especially the Sioux. The Sioux were popular with movie directors, so that is how most White people think all Indians live. The Spokane Indians, Father Arnold was told, were the people of salmon, not buffalo.

David WalksAlong, like some of the Catholics, is also unimpressed with the new rock-and-roll band. He thinks they are far too loud, and he threatens to write an unfavorable report for the Tribal Council. WalksAlong is the council’s chairman. But then WalksAlong becomes distracted when his nephew White Hawk shows up at home. WalksAlong had raised his nephew but White Hawk had been in jail for two years, and WalksAlong had not seen him since. Although he had driven to the penitentiary, he could not make himself go inside. He told White Hawk that he did not want to see him in prison.

People on the reservation are scared of White Hawk, who was big even as a boy. Then White Hawk lifted weights while in the penitentiary. Now he is both big and strong. Word of White Hawk’s return quickly spreads through the...

(The entire section is 606 words.)