Tony's is the first voice to speak in the novel after the Prologue. He is a 21-one-year old man affected by fetal alcohol syndrome, or what he calls the Drome. He lives with an old woman, Maxine, whom he loves very much and takes care of after she breaks her hip. His mother is in jail and his father doesn't know he exists. He sells drugs for Octavio, who comes up with a plan to rob the Oakland Powwow. Tony's job is to wear his old Indian regalia and enter the Powwow with bullets.
Maxine is Tony's guardian. She provides emotional support to him and asks him to read Louise Erdrich to her. She is old now and has a broken hip, so Tony has to help take care of her, too.
Octavio is a secondary character but the mastermind behind the plan to rob the Big Oakland Powwow. He runs a drug ring in Oakland that Tony and Calvin have both been involved in. He is a large, threatening-looking character, who is volatile and often threatens violence. At the same time, he has an emotional side, confessing to and even hugging several characters after getting drunk.
Dene is a primary character in the novel. He narrates several chapters, beginning with his application for grant funding for a film project inherited from his uncle, Lucas. The film, a project about Native life and experience in Oakland, takes Dene on a storytelling journey throughout the novel, meeting other characters as he interviews them for the film. He attends the Big Oakland Powwow for his film project, setting up a storytelling booth.
Norma, Dene's mother, is a secondary character in the novel. She disapproves of her brother Lucas's drinking and career as an unsuccessful filmmaker. She is deeply sad when he dies.
Dene's uncle, Lucas, dies of alcohol poisoning when Dene is thirteen years old. Before he dies, he passes on his movie project to Dene: recording the voices and stories of Native life in Oakland.
Rob is a white man interviewing for the same grant Dene interviews for. He is a minor character, appearing only in a brief conversation before Dene enters his interview with a panel of judges. However, he is significant in that he represents gentrification in Oakland. He tells Dene that he is moving to West Oakland because it is "dirt cheap." Mistaking Dene for non-Native, he also smugly reminds him that no one is really from Oakland. Finally, he tells Dene that Gertrude Stein once said "There is no there there" about her hometown of Oakland.
Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield
Opal and her half-sister Jacquie were raised by their mom in Oakland. In the 1970s, their mom brought them to join the Native uprising at the island of Alcatraz. The movement did not succeed; the three left the island and moved in with a relative in Oakland. Opal's mom refused to seek help from Western medicine for her cancer, and not too long after they moved back to Oakland, she died. As an adult, Opal raises her three grand-nephews in Oakland.
Jacquie Red Feather
Jacquie is Opal's half-sister. As a young teenager on Alcatraz, Jacquie was raped by another Native teenager named Harvey and became pregnant. As an adult, Jacquie struggles with alcoholism but works a steady job as a substance abuse counselor. Her second daughter, Jamie, committed suicide and left behind three young boys. For most of their life, Jacquie has been unable to have a relationship with them, so her stepsister, Opal, takes care of them. Jacquie comes back to Oakland and attends the Powwow to meet her three grandsons.
Bill is dating Karen, Edwin's mom. Bill thinks Edwin needs to grow up and stop relying on his mother; Edwin wishes Bill weren't around so much. Bill works at the coliseum for Oakland Athletics and enjoys sports. He fought in Vietnam and came back a drug addict, later serving time in prison.
Karen is Edwin's mom. She is white and has raised Edwin without a Native community.
Calvin is a young Native man who owes Octavio money after it was stolen from him in the parking lot on the way to a powwow. He made a joke about stealing the prize money from the Big Oakland Powwow, which Octavio took seriously. In order to pay off his debt to Octavio, Calvin is forced to use a gun and participate in the plot to rob the powwow.
Edwin is a thirty-year-old man suffering from obesity and constipation. He got his Master's in Native American Literature and once wanted to be a writer. Since graduating, however, he has failed to find employment and lives at home with his mother. His mother is white and has not raised him in contact with his Native father, so prior to contacting him on Facebook, Edwin has no specific knowledge of his Native identity. Edwin begins a job at the Indian Center, where he meets Blue, on whom he has a crush. Edwin and Blue are in charge of safeguarding the prize money at the Powwow and thus are targeted by the plotters.
When Harvey was a teenager, his father brought him to the uprising on Alcatraz Island. There, he raped Jacquie. Later in life, he has a one-night stand with Karen and fathers Edwin. He also becomes an alcoholic, and then a leader of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. At one of these meetings in Albuquerque, he meets Jacquie again and convinces her to come back with him for the Big Oakland Powwow. At the Powwow, he reunites with his son, Edwin, for the first time.
Orvil Red Feather
Orvil is Jacquie's grandson and Opal's great-niece. He loves to dance in regalia to the Powwow drums, where he feels like he belongs. He pulls spider legs out of his leg, a mystery that puzzles and disturbs his family. He attends the Big Oakland Powwow in full regalia to dance.
Lony Red Feather
Lony is one of the three Red Feather brothers, along with Orvil and Loother.
Loother Red Feather
Loother is one of the three Red Feather brothers, along with Orvil and Lony.
Jamie Red Feather
Jacquie's second daughter, Jamie is a heroin addict in her twenties; she commits suicide while her boys are still young.
Carlos is Charles's friend and is also involved in Octavio's plot to rob the powwow.
Charles is Calvin's brother, who sweeps him up in the plot to rob the powwow.
Blue works on the Big Oakland Powwow planning committee.
Manny is one of Octavio's cousins. He injures his father in a fight after witnessing his abuse of his mother. After that, his father is kicked out of the home. Manny dies from a bullet wound over a drug theft in their front yard.
Daniel is Manny's younger brother. He misses Manny after Manny dies, and he writes to Manny's old Gmail account to keep his memory alive. After Manny's death, Daniel becomes involved in an online community where he learns to code. He writes the code that enables him to 3D-print guns for Octavio's plan to rob the Powwow.
Thomas is a young man who works as a janitor at the Indian Center. He struggles with alcoholism and is fired from his job shortly before the powwow. He is a talented drummer, however, and is asked to join the drum circle at the powwow.
Paul is Blue's abusive ex-husband. He was her boss in Oklahoma, and they got married through the Native American Church. He turned violent after his father died. Blue narrowly escapes him by hiding in the bus depot's bathroom stall and then getting on the bus back to Oakland.
There There Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for There There is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.