Reservation Blues

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Co-owner of a bookstore in Seattle and a fan of Coyote Springs. She sleeps with Junior, and is fascinated by Native American culture. It is no coincidence that Alexie gave her the same name as an iconic white character from the Archie comic books. She is a super-fan of the band, and briefly sings back-up for them. Later, she and Veronica, who accompanies her everywhere, form a band that is signed by Cavalry Records and marketed as “Indian.”

Betty Quotes in Reservation Blues

The Reservation Blues quotes below are all either spoken by Betty or refer to Betty. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Grove Press edition of Reservation Blues published in 1995.
Chapter 2 Quotes

They did go home with Junior and Victor one night, and everybody on the reservation knew about it. Little Indian boys crept around the house and tried to peek in the windows. All of them swore they saw the white women naked, then bragged it wasn’t the first time they’d seen a naked white woman. None of them had seen a naked Indian woman, let alone a white woman. But the numbers of naked white women who had visited the Spokane Indian Reservation rapidly grew in the boys’ imaginations, as if the size of their lies proved they were warriors.

Related Characters: Junior Polatkin, Victor Joseph, Betty, Veronica
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Alexie discusses the reservation community’s reaction to Betty and Veronica’s fling with Junior and Victor. The boys of the town are entranced by the white women, who serve as a means of affirming their own macho identities - they all lie, shamelessly, to claim an easy familiarity with the sexual prize of the white woman. The fact that these young boys, who are without exception sexually inexperienced, believe that these claims bolster their image in the community, shows that interracial relationships are driven by a set of machismo politics instilled at a very young age.

Victor and Junior are heroes according to this logic, at the peak of the macho pyramid. In reality, though, neither has a very successful night with the visiting women, since their blindness to the women themselves, outside of their role as status-boosting trophies, has meant that neither has grown much in their understanding of romantic love since they themselves were young boys. The boys’ need for a macho reputation is driven, Alexie suggest, by their desire to be seen as “warriors,” striving to conform to an identity that the narratives governing their lives, both White and Native, associate with a glorious and brave past.

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Chapter 5 Quotes

“I mean, I think they’re all using each other as trophies. Junior and Victor get to have beautiful white women on their arms, and Betty and Veronica get to have Indian men… Look at them. They got more Indian jewelry and junk on them than any dozen Indians. The spotlights hit the crystals on their necks and nearly blinded me once. All they talk about is Coyote this and Coyote that, sweatlodge this and sweatlodge that. They think Indians got all the answers.”

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire (speaker), Junior Polatkin, Victor Joseph, Betty, Veronica
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Thomas speaks to the radio interviewer after Coyote Springs wins a battle of the bands in Seattle, answering a question about the relationship between Junior and Victor, and Betty and Veronica, two groupies who have joined the band as back-up singers. Thomas takes a dim view of these couplings, seeing both the Native men and the white women as being fascinated more with the fact of one another’s race than with one another's actual person. Each is a trophy to the other - Betty and Veronica are in search of the exotic, seeing in Native Americans a stereotypical, mystic and new age identity to be explored, while for Junior and Victor, the act of landing a white woman proves their masculine power and, as they discuss later, serves as a sort of revenge against the white power structures that hold them down in patterns of suffering.

Chapter 6 Quotes

“You want the good stuff of being Indian without all the bad stuff, enit? Well, a concussion is just as traditional as a sweatlodge… What did you New Agers expect? You think magic is so easy to explain? You come running to the reservations, to all these places you’ve decided are sacred. Jeez, don’t you know every place is sacred? You want your sacred lands in warm places with pretty views. You want the sacred places to be near malls and 7-Elevens, too.”

Related Characters: Chess (Eunice) Warm Water (speaker), Betty, Veronica
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

Chess yells at Betty and Veronica when they decide to leave the reservation after Victor and Junior fight with White Hawk and are taken to the hospital. Chess’s mounting frustration at the invasion of these white women comes to the fore here, as she berates the two outsiders for their limited, ultimately racist view of what it is to be Native American.

Betty and Veronica, argues Chess, are interested in Junior and Victor only as a means of touching the exotic, engaging with a culture they see as holding a special, spiritual power. They misunderstand this power, says Chess, because they believe they can control it and make selective use of it, taking only the good without the bad and keeping all the conveniences and advantages of their white identities at the same time. The sacred is everywhere, in everything, and they are blind to it because it doesn’t suit their exotic fantasy of what magic is. In fact, Chess goes on, the pain of violence driven by alcoholism, as exemplified by this recent fight, is an equal part of what it means to be a Native American, trapped within patterns of suffering that Betty and Veronica cannot begin to understand.  

Chapter 9 Quotes

“These women have got the Indian experience down. They really understand what it means to be Indian. They’ve been there.”
“Explain.”
“Can’t you see the possibilities? We dress them up a little. Get them into the tanning booth. Darken them up a bit. Maybe a little plastic surgery on those cheekbones. Get them a little higher, you know? Dye their hair black. Then we’d have Indians. People want to hear Indians.”

Related Characters: Phil Sheridan (speaker), Mr. Armstrong (speaker), Betty, Veronica, George Wright
Page Number: 269
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Sheridan pitches his repugnant idea for selling Betty and Veronica as a Native American band to Wright and Armstrong, the head of the record label. This is the negative form of cultural transfer, what one would call appropriation - and a particularly backhanded and deceptive instance of it, since Betty and Veronica would be masquerading as actual Native Americans. The fact that “people want to hear Indians” is another reminder of the appetite of the white mainstream majority for the exotic flavors of minority culture - and the fact that Betty and Veronica could satisfy this appetite shows that it is at its base a shallow and ignorant desire equivalent to the one that Betty and Veronica were pursuing in joining the band.

Every suggestion that Sheridan makes for transforming Betty and Veronica into passable Natives is callous, surface level, and deeply racist, from plastic surgery to a tanning booth. In no way do the pair actually “understand what it means to be Indian” - as Alexie’s novel has made clear, the only people capable of truly understanding that identity are the Natives themselves, and to assert ownership over their identity is theft. Witnessing this new racism, a form of cultural violence that has lasted while the explicit violence of the Indian Wars has faded, George Wright finally decides that enough is enough, and he leaves Cavalry Records for good.

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Betty Character Timeline in Reservation Blues

The timeline below shows where the character Betty appears in Reservation Blues. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...especially, is becoming a devastatingly good guitarist. The band’s two most devoted white fans are Betty and Veronica, who come to every rehearsal and sleep in a car outside Irene’s. They... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Betty and Veronica go home one night with Junior and Victor, and little Indian boys swear... (full context)
Chapter 3
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...and Junior naked and drunk in the back of the van with an equally naked Betty and Veronica. (full context)
Chapter 5
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
Checkers begins to tell Father Arnold about Junior and Victor having sex with Betty and Veronica. She explains that this makes her hate both white women and Indian men.... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...that Coyote Springs won the competition. Thomas discusses his songwriting, and the two white women (Betty and Veronica) who sang backup unexpectedly. Thomas has mixed feelings about them—he doesn’t want Indian... (full context)
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
Thomas and Chess take turns driving the victorious band home, with Junior, Victor, Betty, and Veronica in the back seat. Chess asks Thomas if he’ll come with her to... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...people aren’t evil either, as they want to be like the Indians. From the backseat, Betty agrees, but Chess snaps at her. (full context)
Chapter 6
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...paper speaks out against Coyote Springs’ ability to represent the tribe. It takes issue with Betty and Veronica, names Victor and Junior as drunks, calls out Chess and Checkers for being... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...and Junior are drunkenly working their way through their share of the prize money, as Betty and Veronica follow them around. Michael White Hawk is at the Trading Post when the... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...Dave WalksAlong’s nephew, and the white people’s laws are to be kept off the reservation. Betty and Veronica pack up and ask for a ride to Spokane. Chess berates them for... (full context)
Chapter 9
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...day after Coyote Springs returns to the reservation, and a day before Father Arnold’s decision, Betty and Veronica sit in Cavalry Records’ recording studio in Manhattan. Armstrong arrives to listen to... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
Armstrong and Sheridan call Betty and Veronica into the control booth and explain their plan to sell them as Indians.... (full context)
Chapter 10
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...suicide. Victor asks why Junior shot himself. Junior dodges the question once to reminisce about Betty and Veronica, but then responds, “because life is hard.” He explains that when he closed... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
...arrives with a package for Thomas addressed from Cavalry records. It contains a letter from Betty and Veronica, thanking Coyote Springs for their help, and also has a cassette recording of... (full context)