“Let the wind sing through the holes in him, listen to the birds singing. Tony isn’t going anywhere. And somewhere in there, inside him, where he is, where he’ll always be, even now it is morning, and the birds, the birds are singing.”

These final sentences of the novel from the last chapter of Powwow depict Tony’s death as a moment not of erasure but of self-recognition. Throughout the novel, Tony worries about what people see when they look at him, like the Drome or a violent stereotype, but here he rejects these masks as hiding the core of who he really is. In his last chapter, Tony makes peace with himself and his identity. He understands his death less as a departure than as a way to join with a true purpose. Comparing bullet holes to wind chimes, Tony realizes that even violence creates a kind of music.

“She told me the world was made of stories, nothing else, just stories, and stories about stories.”

This passage appears near the end of the Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield chapter in Remain. To say that the world is only stories is to say that words create how people understand and share the world. Everyone must tell his or her story to create a complete sense of the world. When only some stories are told and repeated, we lose the truth of history. The sense that stories are the very fabric of human society resonates across the novel. For example, the structure of There There brings together multiple characters’ stories.

"there there" / "They're there"

The book’s title comes from a phrase referenced several times in the novel. It is an explicit reference to both a Radiohead song and an often-misunderstood quote from writer Gertrude Stein, alike mentioned in Dene Oxendene’s first chapter. There There has two distinct audiences in the Native community and those outside of it. The title, There There, thus works in two ways at once. It is a soothing phrase of comfort and consolation for those readers whose experiences are like those depicted in the book. For others, the title phrase stresses the book’s key message that Native Americans are there and must be seen, especially if one reads the title as “they’re there,” or how it sounds rather than how it is spelled. To say “They’re there” is to say that Native Americans are everywhere in U.S. history, American cities, and even in legends if they are not purposely omitted.

“The bullets have been coming from miles. Years. Their sound will break the water in our bodies, tear sound itself, rip our lives in half. The tragedy of it all will be unspeakable, the fact we’ve been fighting for decades to be recognized as present-tense people, modern and relevant, alive, only to die in the grass wearing feathers.”

The final sentence of the Interlude underscores that tragedy is both unspeakable and yet must be told. Trying to make sure the history of Native Americans is correct can make them seem like relics that belong to the past.  There are many examples in U.S. history and literature of attempts to relegate indigenous people to the past. The erasure of the urban indigenous experience is another way to corral Native Americans into the past and insist that their lives are not “relevant” or “modern” enough to be heard.