In addition to isolation from each other, another theme of this story is the marginalization of Native Americans by white American society and the United States government.
When Thomas and Victor catch a plane to Phoenix to pick up Victor’s father’s ashes, they are seated next to a “tiny white woman” named Cathy, and they joke together and make friends. The woman complains to the two men that “the government ... screwed the 1980 Olympic team by boycotting.” After Thomas remarks that the team has “got a lot in common with Indians,” the group does not laugh; this indicates that, despite their friendship with the woman, there is still unease surrounding the men’s status as Native Americans.
After they get off the plane and say goodbye the men discuss how it’s “too bad we can’t always be that way.” This incident in the story illustrates that the men face social alienation: the conversation with the white woman was unusual to them because they spoke somewhat freely with her.
Other lines throughout the story refer to the disenfranchisement of Native Americans by the American government—in particular, in the military during World War II and going back to the American War of Independence. When the boys are only ten years old, Thomas comments to Victor that it is “strange” that “Indians celebrate the Fourth of July. It ain’t like it was our independence everybody was fighting for.” Later in the story, when the boys are teens, Thomas again refers to wars fought by Americans and how they affect but do not liberate Native Americans. Thomas’ father died “on Okinawa ... fighting for this country, which had tried to kill him for years.”