Although Ceremony is clearly a Native American novel about the adverse effects white people have on Native American culture and on the world in general, the Native Americans in the story are not idealized, nor are they wholly positive characters. Along with Emo, Auntie is one of the most negative characters in the book. In addition to embracing some of the more destructive elements of white society, Auntie also adheres to Native American tradition in a destructive manner.
The eldest daughter of Grandma, Auntie, whose given name is Thelma, will be the next matriarch of her family. As such, she feels responsible to the community for her family and especially her younger siblings. However, Auntie is more concerned about how Laura and Josiah's actions will affect the respect the community gives to her family and what gossip they may cause to be spread, than she is with their welfare. Similarly, she follows the letter rather than the spirit of Native American traditions, leading her to condemn completely any relationship outside of the community. In addition to this blind adherence to Native American social mores, Auntie is a devout Christian who thrives on a narrow interpretation of the concept of martyrdom. In Auntie's understanding of martyrdom, she will gain the respect of her peers if she is seen to suffer for the sins of others. It is in this spirit that she raises Tayo, rather than out of any love for him or any sense of the Native American concept of family, which is not limited to nuclear (mother, father, and child) units.
Although Auntie is a highly problematic character who causes all sorts of unnecessary problems in Tayo's life, she is not demonized. Although she does not do it out of love, she does raise Tayo. She causes difficulty, but not ruin. Her mistreatment of Tayo is attenuated by the rest of her family. Auntie's misunderstanding of both Native American and Christian traditions is the result of the same clashing of cultures that affects everyone in the novel.