Last Updated on April 10, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 835
Orvil Red Feather
Orvil stands in his room in powwow regalia that he has stolen from Opal’s closet. Opal adopted Orvil and his brothers after his mother’s death, and he claims her as his grandmother. He has struggled with his Native ancestry because Opal doesn’t talk about it much; he’s even found himself Googling What does it mean to be a real Indian? He’s known he wanted to dance at a powwow since he was twelve; he feels that it would make him part of something.
Orvil meets Dene at the Indian Center to share a story in exchange for two hundred dollars. He decides to share the story of how he came to live with Opal after finding his mother passed out, thinking she’d overdosed.
After meeting back up with his brothers, Orvil goes into the bathroom of Target and digs what seem to be spider legs out of a lump in his leg. He shows them to his brothers, but no one knows what to make of it. They agree that it “seems Indian.”
Later, Lony asks about the purpose of a powwow. He doesn’t understand the purpose of all the dressing up and dancing; his brothers tell him that these are the “old ways” that they need to “carry on.” Lony doesn’t understand why they can’t just make up new ways.
The boys want to afford Indian tacos, so they ride their bikes around to various fountains to collect the change people have tossed into the water. They roll almost fifteen dollars when they finish their collections.
When the brothers reach the coliseum, they realize that Loother has forgotten the bike locks. Hoping for the best, they stash their bikes in bushes and head inside.
Written from the perspective of a collective Native narrator, this chapter provides some context for and commentary on powwows. Natives come from all over the country to participate in them because they need a place to be together. There aren’t many places left where Natives can see and hear each other.
They identify with many labels, from Indians to Native Americans to Natives, from First Nation Indians to Urban Indians to Indigenous Indians.
In 1705, Virginia established a law that people who were at least half Native didn’t have the same rights as white people. Today “blood quantum” is left to individual tribes.
Natives didn’t have last names when white men arrived on the continent, so names were given to them in order to “keep track” of everyone. They ended up with the names of military leaders, such as MacArthur, Sherman, and Jackson. They were given the names of colors, such as Black and Brown and Orange. And the narrator reflects that “our names are poems” with great meaning and no sense at all: Little Cloud, Bull Coming, Bad Heart Bull, Has No Horse, Two Rivers, Goodbear, Bellymule, Good Feather, and Fingernail.
They won’t be expecting gunfire at the powwow. Yet “something about it will make sense.”
Tony Loneman will buy the bullets at a Walmart. He will take the boxes out and empty them into a pair of socks when he gets to the coliseum. Then he’ll throw the socks into the bushes behind the metal detectors.
Calvin attends a powwow committee meeting, and Edwin is there. He says he’s Cheyenne and will be interning for a while leading up to the powwow.
Dene Oxendene arrives, telling the group about his storytelling project.
Dene interviews Calvin, who recalls that his father never talked about being Native, and his mother has “Native blood on her Mexican side, too,” but she doesn’t know much about it. He says that he feels bad even claiming to be Native sometimes. Dene asks him if he feels any sense of Native pride, and Calvin says that he doesn’t “feel right trying to say something that doesn’t feel true.” Being Native involves a culture and a history that Calvin says he doesn’t know anything about.
Jacquie Red Feather
Jacquie and Harvey ride together on I-10. He shares a story about a time when he ran across very tall, very white men with big eyes in the desert in Arizona. She tells him that it was a dream and that his memory isn’t all that reliable when he’s been drinking. He acknowledges the truth in that but tells her that he found similar stories from others online about the Tall Whites, who are seemingly aliens.
Opal texts to tell her that she has found spider legs in her own legs before, and now that Orvil has found them, too, she wants to know if Jacquie has ever found spider legs in her legs; Opal feels that it has something to do with their mother.
Jacquie leans her head against the window and wonders about their mother and genetics and blood and why a heart keeps beating.
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