Another of Ida’s oddities explained in this chapter is her refusal to speak English except when absolutely necessary, which we now understand as Ida’s way of retaining some control over the world around her. “Indian,” as Rayona calls it, is the language that has molded Ida’s life, and is the language in which she can express herself most explicitly. When she is speaking Indian, Ida is in a realm that she can control, and her desire to face the world on her own terms, through her own language, is especially understandable in the context of the first paragraph of her story. Ida says that if she could live her life differently, she would do it by saying “No” more often, which gives us the sense that Ida feels she has often yielded to the will of others at the expense of her own goals and desires. By speaking Indian with others, Ida forces them to interact with her on her own terms in a way that she can control.
Ida says that she is the foundation upon which the stories of Christine and Rayona are built, and in her story we do see the beginnings of trends that are passed on to Rayona and Christine. Christine notes earlier how alike Rayona and Ida appear, but their similarities are more than just physical. For example, we find that as a child, Ida is very much like Rayona. In school, Ida is smart but refuses to put any effort into her studies, and forty years later we see Rayona display the same intelligence and the same disregard for the authority of the nuns at the mission school. Additionally, we see in Ida much of the same insecurity about appearances that we seen in both Christine and Rayona, and like Rayona, Ida frequently imagines living someone else’s life. When Ida thinks of Willard Pretty Dog, for example, she envisions herself taking on Clara’s features and having the type of beauty that will please him.
Father Hurlburt’s prominence in Ida’s story is somewhat unexpected, and the fact that Christine and Rayona recognize him only as a tangential figure shows how secretive Ida has been about her own life. Based on the earlier chapters, we would never suspect that Father Hurlburt is connected to the story of Ida and her family from the very beginning. This revelation is especially surprising when we consider that Father Hurlburt helps Ida and her family perpetrate the fraud that excuses Clara’s pregnancy, which means he is a big part of the one event that sets all three of the novel’s stories in motion. That Christine and Rayona are ignorant of Father Hurlburt’s role in their lives shows what a thorough job Ida has done in burying her past; even her putative daughter and granddaughter are unaware of the key players in their own histories.