Junior’s dad is one of the important people in Junior’s life. Like his son, Junior’s father knows how to use humor to cope with hardship and lighten even the grimmest of circumstances. And, like both of his children, he’s very intelligent. He could have had a better life had it not been for the reservation limiting his opportunities. Junior’s dad is a talented saxophonist, but any dreams he may have had of being a musician have been overshadowed by poverty and alcoholism. He struggles with a severe addiction to alcohol, often leaving the family for days to go on benders. Perhaps the most profound manifestation of Junior’s complicated feelings toward his father happens in the chapter “And a Partridge in a Pear Tree,” when Junior’s father returns still inebriated from a several-day bender, having missed Christmas, and presents Junior with a $5 bill as a present. Junior describes their interaction, and this gift, as “a beautiful and ugly thing.” It is a testament to both Junior’s emotional maturity and to his father’s ultimately loving nature, despite his mistakes, that Junior can see the good in his father even in these difficult moments.

While Junior sometimes feels justifiable anger toward his father’s debilitating alcoholism, he recognizes that his dad is far more present than many of the other fathers in their community. In contrast to Rowdy’s father, who is a mean, physically abusive man, and some of the white Reardan fathers, who show no interest in their children’s lives, Junior’s father is caring, supportive, and involved. While his alcoholism does sometimes interfere with their father-son relationship, Junior’s father sacrifices much for his son. He knows that Junior is gifted and he does everything he can – including working multiple jobs – to provide Junior with the resources he needs to escape the reservation for a better life. Throughout the many terrible tragedies that the Spirit family endures in the novel, Junior’s father remains emotionally present for his family, and never stops believing in the hope of a bright future for Junior.