Last Reviewed on January 27, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1313
Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield
Opal Viola is doing homework with her sister Jacquie when her mother comes home and announces that they are moving to Alcatraz. Moving around has become commonplace, but Opal thinks their little yellow house is better than where they were before, when her mother came home with swollen lips. Jacquie’s last name is Red Feather, and Opal Viola’s is Bear Shield, and Opal Viola doesn’t understand as a child why her last name is so different than everyone else’s at school.
After they leave the house and are on the bus, Opal Viola asks why they are headed to Alcatraz. Her mother tells her that they are going to meet with all of her relatives, Indians of All Tribes. Together, they hope to see the fulfillment of a prophecy written by Crazy Horse about how the Red Nation will rise again.
A speedboat takes them to the island, where they enjoy warm stew for dinner and laugh around a fire. They all sleep in the cells of the prison.
Jacquie begins running around with the other teenagers on the island while all of the adults are involved in official meetings. Opal Viola begins to feel like they are going to stay at Alcatraz for good.
Eventually she is sent to find out what her older sister is up to and decides to take her teddy bear Two Shoes with her. She and Two Shoes spot her sister at a distance, laughing with friends.
Two Shoes begins to talk to her about his own troubles, telling her that they both got their names from “pig-brained men.” While Columbus attached the name Indians to her people, Teddy Roosevelt was responsible for the teddy bear. While hunting, Roosevelt found a scraggly bear and refused to shoot it. The story ended up in newspapers, and then someone began making scraggly little stuffed bears, “Teddy’s bear,” which became the “teddy bear.” While people hailed Roosevelt as a great nature lover for the story, the lesser known ending is that he slit the old bear’s throat. Two Shoes tells Opal Viola that people have tried to kill both of their ancestors, but the traditional story makes it seem like one grand adventure through a great and empty forest. He tells her that “they slit all our throats.” Opal Viola hides Two Shoes behind some rocks and leaves to find Jacquie.
Jacquie is too nice when Opal Viola finds her—and too loud. She takes long drinks from a bottle of liquor and introduces Jacquie to Harvey. Opal Viola walks away from the loud group and talks to Rocky instead. He isn’t happy to be on Alcatraz, telling her that things were better when they had school, good food, and television. Just because things are different doesn’t mean they are better, he points out.
The older kids find a boat and decide to go for a ride. After a while, they dock, and Opal Viola realizes that most of the kids are drunk. Suddenly she hears Jacquie screaming. Opal Viola heads toward the screaming and notices that Rocky looks so much like Harvey that they must be brothers. Opal Viola finds Jacquie, who tells her, “I told him not to. Then he did. I told him to stop.”
After that night, the sisters do nothing except find out when meals will be served. They have no house to return to and no hope left that the government will have mercy on them. Slowly the people begin to leave Alcatraz, and the supplies diminish. On one of the last days she spends on the island, Opal Viola’s mother takes her to the lighthouse and tells her that it’s important that she always tell her stories. After a long pause, her mother confesses that she has cancer. Opal Viola goes to find Two Shoes, but the shine has left his eyes, so she leaves him on the island.
They head back to the mainland and go to live with their mother’s adopted brother Ronald. Their mother thinks he’s “the real deal,” a...
(The entire section contains 1313 words.)
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