Christine George Taylor, Rayona’s mother and the supposed daughter of Ida. Feeling unloved by Ida, craving attention, and living in the shadow of her talented brother Lee, Christine turns to men and alcohol for solace in her teenage years. Although she admires Lee, she is intimidated by him. She realizes that his reputation as an up-and-coming member of the Indian community enhances her own social position. When Lee and Dayton protest against the Vietnam War draft, Christine believes that Lee’s reputation will be damaged, thereby diminishing her own social status; she convinces him to join the service. Later, Christine moves to Seattle, meets Elgin Taylor, becomes pregnant by him, and marries him. After a rocky marriage of fifteen years, Elgin leaves Christine for the last time while she is in the hospital recovering from her latest binge. Sick, hurt, and afraid, Christine drives to the Montana reservation with Rayona and leaves her with Ida. Still unwelcome at Ida’s home, she moves in with Dayton.
Ida George, the mother of Lee and foster mother of Christine. Although Ida is thought to be Christine’s mother and Rayona’s grandmother, she actually is Christine’s half-sister and cousin. When Ida’s aunt Clara (her mother’s sister) became pregnant by Ida’s father, the family agreed to conceal the scandal by claiming that Ida was the one who was pregnant. Ida accompanied Clara, who posed as Ida’s guardian, to a Catholic home for unwed mothers in Denver. After giving birth, Clara remained in Denver and Ida returned to the reservation with Christine and reared her as her own child. After the death of her parents several years later, Ida lived for a short time with disabled Korean War veteran Willard Pretty Dog, Lee’s father. Ida and he separated, and she refused to acknowledge him or anyone else as Lee’s father. Ida reared Lee and Christine as brother and sister, never revealing to them the truth about their parentage.
Lee George, Christine’s foster brother and cousin. An accomplished rodeo rider and performer of traditional Indian dances, he is well thought of on the reservation and is expected to be a strong tribal leader. He is killed in the Vietnam War and is given a hero’s burial.
Dayton Nichols, Lee’s best friend. Christine, envious of his friendship with Lee, tries to seduce Dayton as a means of breaking up their relationship. He rebuffs her, and she resents him even more. Years later, after Lee’s death, her illness and their common memories of Lee heal and bring them together.
Sky, Rayona’s surrogate parents when she works at Bearpaw State Park. Their home is the first stable environment she has known.
Father Hurlbert, a Catholic priest who becomes Ida’s best friend and only confidant.