Much as Grandmother Spirit represented ancient Indian traditions and tolerance for Junior, Ted and his arrival represent the invasive, misinformed, and oppressive impact of European or white culture on those traditions. This history is something Junior does not lose sight of even when he considers that life might only be very slightly better in Reardan than in Wellpinit in the present age. The impact of European oppression is everywhere, the novel shows, but one thing that white people cannot steal, Junior shows, is Indians’ grief. Junior’s grief at his Grandmother’s death barely has time to settle before a fresh unexpected grief arrives. Before his death, Eugene was one of the few members of the Spokane community to continue to actively support Junior after Junior’s decision to go to Reardan. He gave Junior rides to school, called him courageous, and stitched Junior’s cut in the Wellpinit locker room. Sudden violent deaths, readers learn, are as common a part of life on the troubled Spokane reservation as Valentine’s cards are on Valentine’s Day. Common as they may be, however, these sudden deaths are still tremendously traumatic.

Eugene’s death is the second major loss in a very short time in Junior’s life. After it, Junior feels himself supported by the Reardan community. Gordy consoles him with literature, helping Junior to see that his loneliness and grief have been a part of the human experience for thousands of years. Junior finds support and concern from those who are closest to him. Some of Junior’s white teachers, however, persist in their ignorance, acting as if Junior’s resilience and persistence were actually laziness and avoidance. Junior speaks to Mrs. Jeremy irreverently after her comment about his absence. Given the reversal of their roles—Junior seems to have more experience and clearer insight than his teacher—what would normally be considered inappropriate language, here, seems all too appropriate. Junior’s defiance of Mrs. Jeremy’s authority, too, is a sign of his persistence. Despite his loss and pain, Junior is a long way from giving up.