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In this case the funeral does not follow tribal traditions--there is a coffin and a grave--but following the Blackfeet custom of burying the deceased's possessions with him or her, the hero throws into the grave his grandmother's last possession, a tobacco pouch with an arrowhead in it, a relic of the days when she was the wife of a great chief. Like Abel in House Made of Dawn, Tayo is an outsider because he is illegitimate.His mother was a prostitute who raised Tayo in a shelter of rusted tin in an arroyo in Little Africa, a ghetto in Gallup, New Mexico, where poor blacks, Mexicans, and Indians lived in terrible squalor.Scott Momaday's Ancient Child is about a Kiowa painter who exhibits in galleries in New York and Paris.In James Welch's most recent book, The Indian Lawyer, the hero, a Blackfeet, is a successful corporation lawyer who runs for Congress.For instance, Abel in House Made of Dawn is lost and alcoholic after returning from World War II.He serves eight years for killing an albino Indian before finally adjusting to life in his tribe.When an albino Indian named Fragua humiliates him at a tribal ceremony, Abel kills him and is sent to prison for eight years.
That place is in question because, although his mother is a member of the tribe, Abel, as an illegitimate child, is an outsider; he does not know who his father is, or even what tribe his father belonged to. When he returns from World War II, he cannot adjust to tribal life.Gerry Nanabush, if not the protagonist of Love Medicine then certainly the most dramatic character, makes a specialty of escaping from prison.The nameless hero of Winter in the Blood avoids jail and is less poor than broke, but he has little aim in life; he drifts from one bar to another, picking up women, getting beaten up.Furthermore, ethnic characteristics are more obvious at the lower end of the social scale.