The Grass Dancer Study Guide

The Grass Dancer

The Grass Dancer by Susan Power

Calvin Wind Soldier: Husband of Lydia Wind Soldier and father to Duane and Harley Wind Soldier. Calvin has an extra marital affair with Lydia's twin sister Evelyn Many Wounds, producing Duane. Calvin and Duane are killed in a drunk driving accident by Henry Burger while Lydia is pregnant with Harley.

Lydia Wind Soldier: Wife of Calvin Wind Soldier and mother of Harley Wind Sodlier. After her husband Calvin and nephew Duane are killed in a drunk driving accident, she refused to speak again. Lydia only communicates through gestures and occasionally song. In her mind, Lydia refers to herself as "Ini Naon Win," or Silent Woman.

Duane Wind Soldier: Son of Calvin Wind Soldier and Evelyn Many Wounds. Duane is the result of Calvin Wind Soldier's extra-marital affair with Evelyn Many Wounds. Duane was raised until his death by his father, and his aunt, Lydia Wind Soldier. Duane was killed in the same drunk driving accident that killed his father.

Chuck Norris: A Pomeranian dog that belongs to Harley Wind Soldier. Chuck Norris attends events with Harley, and expresses his opinion by barking at people, or peeing on their personal belongings.

Harley Wind Soldier: Son of Lydia and Calvin Wind Soldier. He was born about one month after his father Calvin and his half brother Duane are killed in a drunk driving accident. Harley is an excellent grass dancer, and competes in pow wows.

Red Dress (Esther): The name meaning beloved of snakes, Red Dress is Anna's grandmother's sister(great aunt). The sister of Long Chase, Red Dress was shot and killed by Reverend Pyke. After her death, her spirit is courted and married by Ghost Horse.

Margaret Many Wounds: The mother of Lydia and Evie, grandmother of Harley Wind Soldier. Confesses on her death bed the true identity of her daughter's father, a doctor she had met during the war.

Evelyn (Evie) Many Wounds: Daughter of Margaret Many Wounds, twin sister of Lydia Wind Soldier. Married to Philbert, a retired bull rider. Mother to Duane, who was the result of an affair with Lydia's husband, Calvin Wind Soldier.

Anna/Mercury Thunder: Is the mother of Crystal, the grandmother of Charlene. Anna changed her name to Mercury after reading about the element from the periodic table that Charlene had brought home. Mercury states "I'm all of a piece". She uses dark magic to control men.

Chaske: Anna's four-year-old son. His father was never known, but he got sick and died.

Charlene Thunder: Romantically interested in Harley Wind Soldier. She is the daughter of Crystal and Martin, but lives with her Grandmother Anna Thunder due to issues with her mother. She loves to dance but is never a Grass Dancer.

Crystal Lundstrom née Thunder: Daughter of Mercury and Mother to Charlene. Married to Martin Lundstrom. Crystal left the reservation with Martin. Crystal is forced to give up Charlene shortly after giving birth.

Martin Lundstrom: Husband of Crystal Thunder and father of Charlene Thunder. Martin is not Native. Instead, he is of Scandinavian descent. He is also crippled. After graduating high school, he asked Crystal to marry him. Together, they started a new life in Chicago.

Isabel Lundstrom: Mother to Martin Lundstrom. She is of Scandinavian descent. Although her relationship with Crystal starts off rocky, she takes on a role as a much needed mother figure for her daughter in law. She can seem critical at times but she is only trying to help.

Spotted Dog: Originally Sunka Gleska, goes by Spotted Dog, belongs to the siblings Red Dress and Long Chase. First appears in Chapter 9 Snakes. Described as a clever companion, has a pumpkin color, wiry fur and white speckles on his muzzle as main features. Understands Dakota and English commands proving his wit. An energetic character, Spotted Dog is up for adventure and pretends to lead the way during a journey with Red Dress and Long Chase, but is dependent and loyal to both. His devotion to Red Dress is shown as his prognostication of her inner most thoughts do not pass him by as he comforts her with companionship. His bond with Long Chase is that of two best friends who love one another's company and are two spirits that will forever be linked.

Long Chase (Joseph): The younger sibling of Red Dress, Long Chase is a sixteen year old warrior who at a young age has already participated in war parties and also taken down buffalo bulls. He first appears in Chapter 9 Snakes. He is infused in the novel when he is determined to join his sister's adventure. Throughout his journey his friendship with his assumed best friend, Spotted Dog, is shown as the two share a unique partnership. His innocent boyish nature is shown throughout his appearance in the novel, but still possesses a warrior's mentality that is not explored much in the story.

Reverend Pyke: Within the Red Dress chapter entitled Snakes , Reverend Pyke is idealistic religious presence within Fort Laramie who delivers passionate sermons that sometimes depart from direct scripture. He wears a stinking top hat that he is never seen without, un-scrubbed clothes, and has dirt-rimmed nails and a beard. Pyke's study however, is very clean and tidy, and he becomes impassioned, lecturing on religion and also personal matters within his study. Red Dress (Esther) is his secretary for all intents and purposes, but later Pyke becomes suspicious of her when the soldiers begin to be found dead. Pyke confronts Red Dress, attempts to shoot her, but shoots Spotted Dog who jumps in the way. On the second shot, his bullet finds its mark. When Reverend Pyke flees from the tent, Dress Dress, now a spirit, follows him and causes him to shoot himself.

Fanny Brindle: Within the Red Dress chapter entitled Snakes , Fanny Brindle is a widow and somewhat of an outsider within the Fort Laramie community. A very thin, blonde, white woman, who has been thrust into poverty after the death of her husband, Fanny displays behavior that suggests she is desperate to escape her circumstances. Fanny stands out by always sitting alone in church and displaying some pop of color to brighten her dark mourning clothes. She befriends Red Dress (Esther), and convinces Red Dress to help her put on a Shakespearean play ( Macbeth ) to distract the members of the Fort. Later, Red Dress goes to visit Fanny in the hallway that she has had to make her home after becoming a widow, and finds Fanny in bed with her striker (the man who's residence the hallway is a part of) who is named Bailey Roe.

Pumpkin: A young woman travelling to various mid-western pow wows to perform her grass dancing. She is noted as the first female grass dancer the other characters had ever seen. Her graceful dancing is described as mesmerizing in her unique dancing outfit. She and Harley Wind Soldier become infatuated with each other and romantically involved until she dies shortly after their meeting in a car accident.

The White Ghost: A ghost that haunts an abandoned home, twelve miles outside the town. She is the ghost of a white settler, named Clara Miller, who once lived in the home. When she was alive, Herod Small War had worked for her, helping her around her home. This resulted in him having an affair with her, even though he was married. It is not mentioned how she died but her spirit continues to haunt her dilapidated home, making various, meaningful appearances to specific characters throughout the book.

Jeanette McVay: A white woman living on the reservation, dating one of the Indian men. She is a school teacher to most of the younger characters in the book. She often tries to appear Indian by dying her hair black. The Dakota culture fascinates her and she tries hard to fit in and appeal to them traditionally. Later on, she has a child, half native and half white.

Herod Small War: Frank Pipe's grandfather and a fatherlike figure to Harley Wind Soldier. He is a Yuwipi man, a spiritual person who works with spirits through the old Indian ceremony of "the sweat". He often helps the people on the reservation with supernatural things, such as protecting them from harmful spirits and helping them make decisions by speaking to the spirits for guidance. He strongly believes in the old ways of his people and tries to follow them closely.

Frank Pipe: The best friend of Harley Wind Soldier and grandson of Herod Small War. He follows Harley around on many of his adventures and tries to guide him. His grandfather is teaching him the Yuwipi ways to which Frank tries his best to follow.

Henry: Lloyd’s best friend who refuses to co-sign on Lloyd’s quick money scheme to revive Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Lloyd reminds Henry Burger of his wife’s unfaithfulness, which results in Henry Burger getting drunk and in crashing his truck, kills Calvin and Duane Wind Soldier.

Lloyd: best friends with Henry Burger. Lloyd presents Henry with a get-rich-quick scheme that Henry Burger refuses to participate in. This frustrates Lloyd, which results in him teasing Henry Burger. This leads to the eventual deaths of Calvin and Duane Wind Soldier.

Archie Iron Necklace: good friends with Herod Small War and is infatuated with his wife, Alberta. Upon learning that Herod cheated on Alberta, Archie beats up Herod.

Dina: also known as Bernadine Blue Kettle is the 13-year-old niece of Anna Thunder. Dina takes her dancing seriously, which leads to her death when Anna tells her to dance in order to try out new moccasins after Chaske’s death and never tells Dina to stop. She is found the next day in the snow frozen to a young Hackberry tree and was buried with her cousin Chaske in a joint funeral.

Joyce Blue Kettle: Dina’s mother and Anna Thunder’s cousin. She is jealous and controlling and loses her mind after the deaths of Chaske and Dina.

Ghost Horse: Uncle of Harley, brother of his great great grandfather. Dakota warrior and Heyo’ka, one of the old time clowns, who marries the spirit of Red Dress after her death. Ghost Horse dies in battle and leaves behind Red Dress’ spirit and later appears to Harley when learning how to pray.

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