Victor attends a powwow. A short woman he calls One-Braid keeps following him and trying to flirt with him, even though he insists he is not interested. Eventually Victor gives up and talks to her, and they swap stories about life on their respective reservations before going to her Winnebago to have sex. Before they can do so, Victor begins to put One-Braid off with his neuroses – he worries about “forced movement” (40) and the fact that One-Braid has no scars on her body. Victor believes that One-Braid “wishe[s] he was Crazy Horse” (42) instead of accepting him as he is. He tells her she is nothing, and leaves without having sex.
Unlike many of the stories that feature Victor, “Crazy Horse Dreams” is narrated in the third person. Not coincidentally, it is also the first story that portrays Victor as more of an anti-hero than a sympathetic figure. Narrating the story in the third person places a barrier between Victor and the reader, and makes it more difficult to identify with him as a character. By doing this, Alexie forces the reader to confront Victor’s erratic, selfish behavior. As a standalone story, “Crazy Horse Dreams” demonstrates how Victor’s personality has been warped by the tragic history of his tribe, as well as the stress and intensity of modern life more generally. In the context of the collection, it is a glimpse of Victor’s prolonged adolescence as he struggles to find his identity in his twenties. The dark portrayal of Victor in this story is similar to his depiction in “Amusements”; when he quits drinking later in the story, he experiences a partial redemption.
“Crazy Horse Dreams” highlights the class and cultural differences that exist within the Native American community. Although Alexie portrays the Spokane reservation as a small, tight-knit community, there are still important class differences within the tribe – and this is to say nothing of the vast cultural, geographical, and socioeconomic differences within the Native American community as a whole. Alexie describes One-Braid as “a child of freeway exits and cable television, a mother to the children who waited outside 7-11 asking him to buy them a case of Coors Light. She sat on the bus traveling uptown to a community college. She sat on the bus traveling toward cities that grew, doubled. There was nothing he could give her father to earn her hand, nothing she would understand, remember” (41). Although Victor and One-Braid seem to share a cultural background, in fact they have had very different lives. By describing One-Braid in this way, Alexie suggests that she grew up off the reservation – and whatever their similarities, she and Victor will never be able to truly connect because of their different upbringings.
This story is one of many in the collection that references Crazy Horse, a leader of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He is famous for leading a coalition of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho fighters in the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. The Native American coalition won this battle, and was able to temporarily prevent white encroachment on their lands as a result. Although Little Bighorn was not the only instance of Native Americans successfully fighting off white invaders, it is certainly the most well-known. Because of this, Crazy Horse has become an important cultural touchstone for both Native and European Americans. Alexie refers to Crazy Horse many times throughout The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. In this story, Crazy Horse represents traditional Native American masculinity – a stereotype that, according to Alexie, is very far from the actual experience of being Native American in modern times.