Similar to the Prologue, the Interlude is an essay about Native American life from the perspective of an unnamed narrator (different from that of the Prologue). The narrator starts by discussing powwows, and how people of all ages, backgrounds, and geographic regions come together for jewelry, songs, dances, and drums. Powwows are intertribal and provide one of the only spaces for Native Americans to unify and come together. The Big Oakland Powwow is one of the larger gatherings. At this Powwow, the narrator says there is one thing that all Native Americans have in common: the quippy bumper stickers on their cars in the parking lot. 

The narrator then discusses the Native blood quantum, which was introduced in 1705 by white settlers to deny rights to people who were at least half-Native. Now, individual tribes can use the blood quantum to determine membership in their tribe. The damage that white people caused when the settlers ravaged North America has never healed, and the narrator bemoans how Native Americans are often called “resilient,” believing that mere survival of murder is not resilience. The narrator continues discussing the historic genocide of Native Americans and makes an analogy to compare the privileged and the unprivileged: people on yachts are those who don’t have to remember or consider their history, and people clinging to inflatable rafts at sea are people who can’t forget their history or else they will drown. Extending the analogy further, people on the yachts will comment on how lazy or incapable those in the water below are, even though the yacht owners inherited the yachts from their fathers. 

The narrator next discusses the nature of Native American last names and how they were assigned by American military leaders who wanted to create an organized system for counting people. Native American surnames vary from colors to poetic descriptions to animals. In the same way white settlers assigned surnames to Native Americans, they also gave them the label “Indian.”

The last section of the interlude discusses people’s reactions to a mass shooting. People reading or viewing news reports of such an event often dismiss the possibility that something that terrifying might happen to them. In reality, if a Native American were caught in a shooting, there would be more silence and less drama than one might expect, and it would somehow all make sense. The narrator concludes by discussing the tragedy of Native Americans getting shot by a stray bullet, especially after they have been fighting for modern-day relevance their whole lives.


The Interlude echoes the novel’s Prologue in its emphasis on sharing information important to readers who might be unfamiliar with Native traditions but differs in its use of a first-person plural narration that asserts a form of belonging. “We” assemble from across the nation, this narrator explains, before pivoting to a list of places that indicates Native people live not just on reservations but also in major urban centers like New York City.  Powwows allow Native people to gather together and to celebrate their shared culture. The powwow is similar to Dene Oxendene’s film, which gathers disparate persons together to share their stories and revel in their similarities and differences, as well as the novel itself.

Not only does the narrator align him or herself with the Native participants, he or she also adopts an almost omniscient perspective from which to anticipate the novel’s action. This is an important formal choice. The future in the book is now “scripted,” a detail that recalls the conversation about the film project in Dene’s first chapter. Knowing what will happen casts a pall over the subsequent chapters, as it becomes clear that, despite everyone’s hard work, the immediate future will be grim. There is a sense of pessimistic fatalism to the idea that yet another attempt at creating Native community will fail. At the same time, the fact that it is gun violence echoes how tradition and modernity both make up Native stories. Contemporary violence is present everywhere, although it is usually mediated through screens, allowing everyone the illusion that gunfire will never puncture their personal reality. This is patently false. Although Native Americans are burdened with a history that suggests that bullets, represented as hungry things, are always on a trajectory towards them, the inclusive “we” of this chapter’s section expands to include all Americans, alike familiar with the possibility that a shooter could appear.