Reservation Blues

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George Wright Character Analysis

An executive at Cavalry Records, who works with Phil Sheridan and under Mr. Armstrong. Wright is beginning to feel remorse for the tactics of his fellow executives. Like the other two Cavalry Records executives, he is also a modern version of a famous U.S. Army Officer implicated in the slaughter of Native Americans. George Wright (1803-1865), commanded troops during the Battle of Spokane Plains near modern day Wellpinit, and hanged Chief Owhi and his son Qualchan in bad faith after inviting them to negotiate. Wright winds up leaving Cavalry Records, consumed by guilt, and going to rest at the grave of his historical predecessor in California.

George Wright Quotes in Reservation Blues

The Reservation Blues quotes below are all either spoken by George Wright or refer to George Wright. 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 8 Quotes

Wright looked at Coyote Springs. He saw their Indian faces. He saw the faces of millions of Indians, beaten, scarred by smallpox and frostbite, split open by bayonets and bullets. He looked at his own white hands and saw the blood stains there.

Related Characters: George Wright
Page Number: 244
Explanation and Analysis:

George Wright, who is another record executive/historical army officer, finally confronts his guilt for the horrific events of the Indian War. Wright showcases the ways that violence and oppression can also have negative consequences for the oppressor. The fact that Wright looks at the members of Coyote Springs and sees the entire violent and tragic history of their race reinforces the notion that this history continues to have effects today, since the tribe has been caught in cycles of violence and suffering ever since.

That Wright can see this history of the whole race in each of them, also raises the question: does every member of mainstream white American also carry a share of the guilt for their suffering? Wright’s hands are figuratively stained with blood, because he was, somehow, present during the Indian Wars 150 years before or more, but do all white hands continue to share this guilt, at least until proper reparations have been made? There is, perhaps, an implicit argument that until the cycle of suffering and racism has been broken, all Native Americans will have this oppression as an unshakeable part of their identity - and all white Americans might have an equivalent guilt as a part of theirs, unless they work to undo the wrongs embedded in society’s structure.

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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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George Wright Character Timeline in Reservation Blues

The timeline below shows where the character George Wright appears in Reservation Blues. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...and when Junior he asks who he is, the soldier introduces himself as General George Wright. Junior is then bound and seated at a table across from the General, where they... (full context)
Chapter 6
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...and knock on the door. They introduce themselves to Thomas as Phil Sheridan and George Wright, executives from Cavalry Records in New York City. A fax from the pair to their... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Wright and Sheridan are on the phone with Armstrong, who tells them to go check out... (full context)
Chapter 8
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...who dreams of the reservation. At Cavalry Records, the band warms up nervously. Sheridan and Wright are nervous for Mr. Armstrong’s decision, hoping these Indians can make them money. Armstrong arrives,... (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
...for.” Junior says he just wants to be good at something. Back in the studio, Wright and Sheridan return, suggesting Coyote Springs may be able to try again in a couple... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering  Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...another white guy telling lies. Sheridan kisses Checkers and pulls at her clothes, but George Wright’s knock on the door interrupts them. Hearing Checkers scream, Wright throws his shoulder against the... (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
They are all surprised when George Wright answers their knock on the hotel room door. He explains that Checkers just had a... (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
...their hair, and maybe perform plastic surgery to raise their cheekbones. Disgusted by his partner, Wright leaves, catching a cab driven by an old white woman with bright blue eyes. He... (full context)