Summary: Thomas Frank

Thomas hears the gunfire but hopes that it is something else. When he stands up to see where the sound is coming from, he gets shot in the neck. He grasps his throat and realizes that someone is holding him and pressing against his bleeding wound. All he wants to do is drift off into sleep, but the person holding him slaps him in the face to keep him alive. Thomas is grateful for this slapping and feels it is divine. His fear passes as he arrives in the State, which is the ideal state of mind he usually only achieves through alcohol or drumming. Thomas knows he is dying and is at peace with it.

Summary: Bill Davis

Bill hears gunshots and thinks of Edwin. As he runs toward the field, he feels his phone vibrate. Karen, Edwin’s mother, is calling. She tells him that she is on her way, but he tells her that she should turn around and call the police since there has been a shooting. While they are talking, Bill is shot twice. He remembers the last time he felt this way was when a grenade landed near him in the war. He dies watching the seconds count up on his phone screen, since Karen has not hung up.

Summary: Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield

When the shooting starts, Opal runs down the stands to the first level. She tries to call Orvil, but he does not answer. When she reaches the front entrance, she sees Loother and Lony and runs to them. Loother says that they’ve been trying to call Orvil to no avail.

Summary: Jacquie Red Feather

Harvey tries to push Jacquie to the ground to keep her from getting shot. She pulls away from him and walks toward the gunfire, determined to find Orvil. She looks across all of the bodies on the ground and thinks that it could be performance art, all these people on the ground pretending to be shot like it was a massacre. When Jacquie reaches Orvil, who is splayed on the ground, she finds that he still has a pulse. Screaming for help, she carries him out the front gate and meets Loother and Lony. Harvey joins them, and they all ride away in Opal’s car.


There are two kinds of reunions in this devastating portion of Powwow. The first is the reconstruction of a family, as Opal and Jacquie gather the three Red Feather boys including a seriously wounded Orvil. With Harvey in tow, the family speeds off to the hospital. Opal’s very short chapter powerfully conveys the panic of a parent during a mass shooting, dialing numbers with no answer, trying to parse broken sounds and sobs in a failed call, and being trapped by a crowd of terror-stricken people. Across the several chapters centered on this core family group, Orange shows a tragically distorted version of the family that they have all, variously, hoped to find as well as a reenactment in miniature of the tragedies that There There associates with being a member of the Native community.

The second reunion depends more on the juxtaposition of characters than the relationships between them. Thomas and Bill are paired in the novel and, as they die across two chapters, Orange creates further resonances between them. For example, Thomas imagines he is entering the “State” while Bill fears he has never escaped from his state service as a combat veteran. Both characters prove to be courageous in the face of death, finding reserves that they did not know or believe they had. One small inversion creates an additional connection. As Thomas dies, he understands that he is “here” and accepts the fact of his death. Bill’s death, in contrast, is depicted as a departure.