However, the determined Bouquet takes good care of his men and is also fair to the Indians. He orders his men never to attack an Indian unless the Indian strikes them first. Although Del and many others are volunteers who had relatives that were killed or injured by Indians, they obey Bouquet's orders and do not harm the Indian hostages with whom they are traveling. When the whites arrive at the Forks of Muskingham, Del cannot believe that the horrible place is so important to the Indian people. Bouquet becomes very bold and orders the Indians to give back their white captives, but Del, who grew up near Delaware Indians, tells the Colonel that the Indians would never return their prisoners. He knows that once an Indian family adopts a white person, he or she is looked upon as a full-blooded Indian.
Del is surprised to find that the Indians do give up their captives. Although they love their white relatives, they would rather turn them over than lose their precious land to the whites. He describes the scene in which the whites are returned as unforgettable. Many Indians cry and give presents to their white relations. What the white soldiers cannot understand is why the whites do not want to leave their Indian homes and why they have no respect for the soldiers who have come so far to save them. The most resistant of all is True Son, who fights wildly at the sight of the white soldiers. Del thinks that it is ironic that the boy's name is True Son since he is so unwilling to meet his true white mother and father. True Son is described as wearing a large, new, calico hunting shirt and leggings. His hair is black and his skin brown, but his features are clearly English.
Once the Indians have left, Del finds True Son trying to bite through the knots that hold him down. He warns the boy that he should know better, but True Son is angry and says that he spits on whites. When Del tells him to remember that he is white too, the boy declares that he is Indian. Del does not laugh because part of him understands these feelings since he grew up nearby Indians. He tries to make True Son see that the parents he was born to are white, but the boy refuses to accept that they are his real parents. He even insists that his skin is not white and hits the guard's hand when he tries to lift up the boy's shirt. When True Son emotionally cries out that the Indian country is his home, Del finally leaves him alone.
In the morning, Del tries to make True Son eat, but True Son refuses. The soldier says that the boy will need the energy for the trip back to Pennsylvania, but True Son replies that he intends to go to a place where "you can't tramp me with your big foot." Del is puzzled by this comment, but the boy will not say anything more.
As a white boy who has been raised Indian since he was a toddler, True Son does not have any concept of his white identity. He has been taught to see himself as Indian and to view whites as enemies, so to be returned to his old family seems traitorous and incomprehensible. Even though True Son is a "prisoner" of the Indians, he is treated as a family member and loves his way of life. In fact, True Son feels that by returning to the whites he is going to become their prisoner; he does not see his biological white family as his real family since he does not even remember living with them. When True Son blackens his face with ash he is desperately attempting to make others see him as an Indian, which is the way he sees himself. This conflict between what True Son believes his identity to be and what the people around him see as his identity is a central theme of the book. No matter how hard True Son tries to be a real Indian, the fact remains that he is born a white boy from a white family.
This conflict is made all the more difficult for True Son since he is at a point in his life when most kids are struggling to discover who they are for themselves. We get a particularly good idea of True Son's character since this first chapter is mostly told through his perspective. As a typically rebellious teenager, True Son tries to act like a man even though he is still a child. He has been taught to cope with hardship and pain, but his emotions often get in the way of his actions. Blackening his face, resisting his father with kicks and shouts, and pouting and crying are all childish attempts to gain command over his life. True Son resents the fact that white adults are trying to control him, and we begin to see how he plans to regain this control through violence.