- Agnes (Adams) Spirit (Junior's Mom)
- A Spokane Indian, Agnes has lived on the reservation her entire life. She is a bad liar, likes to read books, and is considered to be very smart by her children. She is an ex-alcoholic and is seen as eccentric by Junior: "She's a human tape recorder," Junior explains, "Really, my mom can read the newspaper in fifteen minutes and tell me baseball scores, the location of every war, the latest guy to win the lottery, and the high temperature in Des Moines, Iowa."[a]
- Arnold Spirit (Junior's Dad)
- An alcoholic, but very supportive. Even though he sometimes disappears, he tries to take care of his family and he often drives Junior to Reardan. He plays the piano, the guitar and the saxophone. He could have been a jazz musician, given more time and money.[a]
- Arnold Spirit Jr. AKA Junior
- Nicknamed Junior, Arnold is a fourteen-year-old boy who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He enjoys playing basketball and drawing cartoons in his free time. Junior and his family, along with the others on the reservation, feel the daily effects of poverty and financial shortcomings—there is often not enough food to eat in their home or enough money to fill the gas tank in the car, forcing him to hitchhike to school or not go at all. He is incredibly smart; he transfers from the school on the reservation to Reardan, where almost all the students are white.
Coach:The coach of the basketball team at Reardan High School. Unlike the teachers who are apprehensive of Junior's attendance at Reardan, the coach pays no attention to Junior's race. He is supportive of Junior both on and off the court.[b] The coach becomes a father figure for Junior in many ways, but also becomes an exemplary friend, helping Junior through difficult times dealing with playing against his home reservation. The novel never gives a name to him, as he is always referred to as coach.
- When Arnold Spirit was twealve years old, he loved this girl. He thought about Dawn when he said to Rowdy that he loved Penelope.
Eugene:The best friend of Junior's father. "Eugene was a nice guy, and like an uncle to me, but he was drunk all the time,"[c] Junior reveals. He becomes an Emergency Medical Technician(EMT) for the tribal ambulance service, and, for a brief time, drives a 1946 Indian Chief Roadmaster. Eugene dies after his close friend Bobby shoots him in the face during a dispute over alcohol. Bobby hangs himself in jail.
- Gordy is a student who attends Reardan, wears glasses, and does everything in the name of science. Gordy always speaks in a sophisticated and proper manner throughout the novel. He is one of the smartest students at the school and he eventually becomes Junior's first real friend at Reardan. Gordy also helps Junior with schoolwork and encourages his enjoyment of reading books.
- Grandmother Spirit
- Junior's Grandma. She is Junior's source of advice and support, until she dies after being hit by a drunk driver while walking on the side of the road on her way home after a powwow. Her dying words were "Forgive him," which meant that she wanted her family to forgive the drunk driver, Gerald, for hitting and killing her. Ironically, she never had a drink in her life. She was also extremely tolerant and loving of all people. Junior's grandma is his favorite person in the world. "My grandmother's last act on earth was a call for forgiveness, love, and tolerance," Junior recalls on page 157.[d]
- Junior's sister. Mary has long hair and is nicknamed "Mary Runs Away". She likes to write romance stories and is considered by Junior to be "beautiful and strong and funny". She was smart, but did not have the skills to get a job.[e] After high school, she did not go to college or get a job; instead, she moved to Montana with her new husband she met at the reservation casino. Mary and her new husband die of a fire in their trailer-home after a partygoer forgot about a boiling pot of soup. A curtain drifted onto the hot plate and the trailer was quickly engulfed. Junior was told that Mary never woke up because she was too drunk.
- Works in the office of Reardan High School. She is 50 years old.
- Mr. P
- Junior's white geometry teacher at Wellpinit High School. He mentored Mary, Junior's older sister, and wants to help Junior leave the reservation. Mr. P regrets the way he treated his students when he was younger. He had been taught to beat the Indian out of the children. He is short and bald, and incredibly absent minded. He often forgets to come to school, but "he doesn't expect much of [his students]."[f] A major turning point in Diary's plot occurs when Junior throws his math book at Mr. P after a realization about the reservation's poverty.
- Junior's crush and good friend from Reardan High. She has blonde hair and Junior thinks that she is very attractive. She enjoys helping others, is bulimic, and has a racist father named Earl. She is popular and plays on the Reardan volleyball team. She is obsessed with leaving the small town behind and traveling the world. She initially decides to be close with Junior, fed up with the conformity of the town; but closer to the end of the novel, she does become Junior's girlfriend.
- Roger is a jock at Reardan High School. Upon meeting Junior, Roger uses racial slurs to demean him, and eventually it gets so racist that Junior retaliates by punching him in the face. Contrary to Junior's expectations, Roger then begins to respect Junior, and the two gradually become friends. Furthermore, Roger obtains a role as a kind of advisor and protector of Junior, occasionally helping him monetarily and other times with advice.
- Rowdy is Junior's best friend. He is "long and lean & strong like a snake."[g] Throughout the novel, Rowdy's father abuses him, which leads to his bully-like behavior. He likes reading comics, such as Archie. The comics help him escape the troubles of the real world. Junior and Rowdy have been the best of friends since they were little, and Rowdy has often taken on the role of Junior's protector. However, as Junior leaves the reservation school, Rowdy feels betrayed by his best friend and turns into Junior's "arch nemesis" during the novel. Even though Rowdy develops a passionate hatred for Junior through the betrayal he felt, they are able to eventually overcome their situation and become friends again by the end of the novel.
- This billionaire came to Grandmother Spirits funeral to give back a powwow dancing outfit. But nobody recognized the outfit so he drove away.
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