Chapter 26: Old Flame

Cash is taking Alice to the stomp dance, which starts around midnight and lasts through the night. They arrive at the Ceremonial Grounds where a fire is burning that is as old as the Cherokee people—they brought this flame on the Trail of Tears and its embers have never died. When Ledger Fourkiller, the chief, arrives, everyone moves to sit around the fire. The people are gathered in groups by clan. Sugar tells Alice to sit with her, as they are both of the Bird Clan. Alice feels a little unsure, but Sugar tells her that she has just as much Cherokee in her as Sugar does. The chief says blessing, gives a talk in Cherokee, and everyone passes around his pipe.

When he is finished, everyone starts dancing around the fire. In the inner circle, the teenage girls dance with shackles on their legs—shells filled stones that rattle when they move. When Alice begins to dance, she feels transcended to a new place she has never seen before. Alice is moved by the songs and the girls' shackles, which sound to her like the forest. For the first time, she feels she is completely part of something. She thinks of the music as something that loses all its individual parts and becomes one whole sound; her own loneliness and troubles fade and she finds herself overtaken by this new world.

Chapter 27: Family Stories

Alice and Sugar go to the Cherokee Heritage Center to find Alice's ancestry in the Cherokee roll. They write down the enrollment number of Alice's maternal grandmother. Sugar explains that many people on the Nation are "watered down" Cherokee, that Alice should not feel any less Cherokee than the next. Feeling guilty, Alice thinks enrolling may help her cause.

Alice then goes to meet Annawake again, this time at her Uncle Ledger's house. Annawake and Alice sit by Ledger's lake. Alice asks her if Turtle's custody case would be treated differently if Alice and Taylor enrolled, claiming their Cherokee blood. Annawake says it could be advantageous for Taylor, but that becoming a Cherokee legally is not the same as culturally becoming Cherokee. Additionally, Annawake tells Alice that she has had someone on the Nation ask her to find a missing a relative, who may be Turtle. Annawake seems a little curious that Alice does not know anything about it.

Annawake again tries to explain to Alice why she is pursuing Turtle's case. She tells Alice of the Trail of Tears, explaining the "holocaust" executed against her people. Many years later, in the early twentieth century, the Nation's government was dissolved by federal order. Cherokee kids were sent to boarding schools, and land was sold off.

Annawake goes on to talk about how differently the Cherokee conceive of family. They do not distinguish between nuclear and extended family. She knows that taking Turtle back would cause extreme pain, but also knows that someone on the Nation would be "made whole again." It is a moral dilemma for both Annawake and Alice.