“It’s important that he dress like an Indian, dance like an Indian, even if it is an act, even if he feels like a fraud the whole time, because the only way to be Indian in this world is to look and like an Indian. To be or not to be Indian depends on it.”

In this passage from Orvil Red Feather’s chapter in “Reclaim,” he thinks about identity and authenticity. The passage echoes William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet in which Hamlet muses about the difference between being and not being. Orvil asks a slightly different question, one about authenticity and perception, but the reference to Shakespeare stresses he is a tragic character. Identity is partly how people feel, partly how other people see them, and partly what they do.

“We didn’t have last names before they came. When they decided they needed to keep track of us, last names were given to us, just like the name Indian itself was given to us.”

In a section of the Interlude titled “Last Names,” the narrator presents another way that colonization by white people created the Indian identity. Many things were stolen from indigenous peoples, including their lands and lives, and new identity formations, like names, were foisted upon them. The shift to the passive voice stresses that these words were imposed from a hostile outside, rather than selected as a personal or authentic expression of identity.

“Don't ever let anyone tell you what being Indian means. Too many of us died to get just a little bit of us here, right now, right in this kitchen. You, me. Every part of our people that made it is precious. You’re Indian because you’re Indian because you’re Indian.”

Opal says the above to Orvil in his chapter from Remain. Right before the passage, Opal explains to Orvil that she will not expose him to more of their heritage until he is older. Here, she stresses that even without this knowledge, he belongs to the community and has great value to it. Being Indian isn’t a matter of right or wrong. Instead, it is a state of existence that one inherits, one about which neither of them has any choice.

“We are the memories we don't remember, which live in us, which we feel, which make us sing and dance and pray the way we do, feelings from memories that flare and bloom unexpectedly in our lives like blood through a blanket from a wound made by a bullet fired by a man shooting us in the back for our hair, for our heads, for our bounty, or just to get rid of us.”

This passage from the Prologue to There There introduces the complex relationship between individuals and groups the novel will present. The pronoun “we” (first-person plural) refers to a collective of people. Even though Native people may not know all of the details of their history, they live in the permanent consequences of it and feel the effects daily. These unremembered memories live on communally. Orange uses this passage to define Indian identity as being both singular and plural and having inherent positive and negative attributes. Natives share the memories that build a positive sense of community including song, dance, and prayer. Some communal memories have negative effects. Such memories can “flare and bloom” into anger for the violence done to Native tribes for gain, revenge, and genocide.