An unscrupulous, greedy Ute who lives in the town of Piedra, Blue Elk tricks Tom into first attending school on the reservation and into entering the civilized town of Pagosa. Blue Elk embodies a complicated set of circumstances. While he shares Tom's heritage, he has rejected it for the new ways of civilization. And Blue Elk seeks to force Tom to believe that these new ways represent an improvement on the old Ute ways. He constantly manipulates and exploits Tom and others and rarely, if ever, demonstrates a moment of selflessness. However, Blue Elk's visit to Tom's mountain lodge in the beginning of the novel speaks to a very different aspect of his personality. He becomes emotional as he reminisces about his life as a Ute, crying upon hearing the old chants. He represents the Native Americans who have lost their sense of heritage and have submitted to the white values concerning materialism and nature.