Orvil Red Feather is a teen boy seeking a deeper understanding of his Native American identity and heritage. Orvil is curious about his past and eager to learn, traits he couples with a pronounced sense of responsibility that he shows in his care for his two younger brothers. Orvil’s great-Aunt Opal, who raises him, refuses to answer his questions about his heritage because of her belief that associating with his Indian culture will only cause him harm. Orvil responds to Opal’s silence about Native traditions and history by seeking answers online, reading articles and watching videos, showing an unstoppable attraction to the topic. Teaching himself the dances gives Orvil a feeling of profound satisfaction, suggesting that he has finally reached his goal of embodying his Native identity and becoming a man.
While many characters in There There explore their Native identity, Orvil’s character stresses the importance of what is innate, a tendency or gift that a person inherits at birth, rather than how the world looks at or perceives a person. Orvil’s enthusiasm for Native dance, as well as his natural facility for it, explore whether some aspects of Native culture are inherited. Despite his great-Aunt actively trying to loosen his tie to his Native heritage, Orvil finds his own way into the community and culture, where he feels pride and belonging in performing the dance he taught himself.