Reservation Blues

Chess (Eunice) Warm Water Character Analysis

A Flathead Indian from Arlee, Montana, Chess becomes a back-up singer and keyboardist in Coyote Springs, and falls in love with Thomas Builds-the-Fire. She is very close with her sister, Checkers, of whom she is also fiercely protective. The two sisters earned their money fighting forest fires in Montana before joining the band. Chess is wise, and tells stories like Thomas. At the end of the novel, deeply frustrated by the death of Junior and the cycle of suffering that brought it about, she proposes to Thomas and the two decide to move to Spokane and have children together—children who will grow up with two “brown faces” looking down at them.

Chess (Eunice) Warm Water Quotes in Reservation Blues

The Reservation Blues quotes below are all either spoken by Chess (Eunice) Warm Water or refer to Chess (Eunice) Warm Water. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove Press edition of Reservation Blues published in 1995.
Chapter 4 Quotes

“You never told us who won that game between your father and the Tribal Cops.”
“Who do you think?” Thomas asked. “Who do you think won that game?”

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire (speaker), Chess (Eunice) Warm Water (speaker), Samuel Builds-the-Fire
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

“There was a part of every Indian bleeding in the snow. All those soldiers killed us in the name of God, enit? They shouted ‘Jesus Christ’ as they ran swords through our bellies. Can you feel the pain still, late at night, when you’re trying to sleep, when you’re praying to a God whose name was used to justify the slaughter?”

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire (speaker), Chess (Eunice) Warm Water
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Thomas smiled.
“You know,” he said, “I’ve always had a theory that you ain’t really Indian unless, at some point in your life, you didn’t want to be Indian.”
“Good theory,” Chess said. “I’m the one who told you that.”

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire (speaker), Chess (Eunice) Warm Water (speaker)
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 10 Quotes

Chess looked around the graveyard, at all the graves of Indians killed by white people’s cars, alcohol, uranium. All those Indians who had killed themselves. She saw the pine trees that surrounded the graveyard and the road that led back to the rest of the reservation. That road was dirt and gravel, had been a trail for a few centuries before. A few years from now it would be paved, paid for by one more government grant. She looked down the road and thought she saw a car, a mirage shimmering in the distance, a blonde woman and a child standing beside the car, both dressed in black.

Related Characters: Junior Polatkin, Chess (Eunice) Warm Water, Lynn
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

In the blue van, Thomas, Chess, and Checkers sang together. They were alive; they’d keep living. They sang together with the shadow horses: we are alive, we’ll keep living. Songs were waiting for them up there in the dark. Songs were waiting for them in the city.

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire, Chess (Eunice) Warm Water, Checkers (Gladys) Warm Water
Related Symbols: Horses
Page Number: 306
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chess (Eunice) Warm Water Character Timeline in Reservation Blues

The timeline below shows where the character Chess (Eunice) Warm Water appears in Reservation Blues. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
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
This chapter begins with a love song, and the reason becomes clear when Chess and Checkers Warm Water, Flathead Indian sisters, push their way to the front of the... (full context)
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...on stage with Junior and Thomas, and Thomas announces that the next song is for Chess. He points at her in the crowd, and everyone chants her name. Thomas sings 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
...and noting that Victor and Junior were “drunk as skunks.” The night of the show, Chess and Checkers helped Thomas pack the gear, since Victor and Junior were passed out in... (full context)
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Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
Chess invites Thomas back to their house to spend the night, and although he feels a... (full context)
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
Chess tells Thomas that they grew up in a little shack in the hills with their... (full context)
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Chess begins to cry, and takes a moment to herself in the bathroom. Thomas asks about... (full context)
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Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
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Thomas smiles at Chess when her story is finished—she is the first Indian he has found who tells stories... (full context)
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...believing she was dead—he convinced himself she had run away with another man. He brought Chess and Checkers small gifts whenever he returned from searching. One time, he brought each sister... (full context)
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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...brought it inside so that it didn’t get cold. Victor cooks an omelet, surprising everyone. Chess leaves the kitchen after Victor farts, and Thomas follows her. Victor and Junior are left... (full context)
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Thomas tells Chess that the band is better than they sounded last night, blaming Victor and Junior being... (full context)
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Struck with an idea, Thomas invites Chess and Checkers to join the band as singers. Chess is skeptical, unwilling to leave home.... (full context)
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...audience.” The audience goes wild, begging for more “music, hope, and joy.” After the show, Chess, Checkers, and Thomas find Victor and Junior naked and drunk in the back of the... (full context)
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Checkers goes to sleep on the pool table inside, while Chess and Thomas sit on a bench and talk. Chess tells Thomas that Victor and Junior... (full context)
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...Wally won the Indian boys beat him up—all except Beaver. And Wally never stopped dancing. Chess correctly guesses that the two were half brothers. When she asks what the story means,... (full context)
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...quotes Michael White Hawk badmouthing the band. The band members are asleep throughout Thomas’s house. Chess dreams of a small unpainted Indian man on a pale horse, who rides alone and... (full context)
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Chess wakes up in the dark, frightened, and calls for Thomas, finding him in the kitchen... (full context)
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...engine by Thomas. They band members are driving back to the reservation, everyone asleep but Chess and Thomas, who listen to Hank Williams on the radio. The music rises up into... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
...drunken father. Victor and Junior, too, are jaded to this sight, and they go inside. Chess and Checkers help Thomas lift his father into the house and lay him on the... (full context)
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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...he had nothing left to be good at. Now, looking at him on the table, Chess and Checkers are surprised he ever played: he is dirty and overweight. Checkers says that... (full context)
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Thomas pours them all a glass of commodity grape juice, and Chess remarks that their cousins drink this mixed with rubbing alcohol. They fall silent, and then... (full context)
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Chess and Checkers wait for Thomas in the kitchen, jealously watching Samuel sleep. Checkers tells Chess... (full context)
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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...the Sherriff.” The cops score again. Back in the present, in the kitchen, Thomas asks Chess if she ever drank, and she and Checkers reply that they never did—they were too... (full context)
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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Chess and Thomas remember an argument they witnessed a few days earlier in Spokane—a drunk white... (full context)
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Thomas, Chess, and Checkers talk about Thomas’s mother, who died of cancer. Thomas tells them that she... (full context)
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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Chess remembers that her father Luke used to rave about being a radioman in World War... (full context)
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...Checkers slaps him. She begins to struggle against him, until Victor throws her down. Then Chess intervenes, and Thomas tackles Victor. The two wrestle, until Junior finally interrupts them. Thomas leaves... (full context)
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Thomas and Chess return to the house to announce their decision. Junior is under the table with Checkers,... (full context)
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Victor and Junior drink coffee while Thomas and Chess discuss Seattle—how it’s named after an Indian Chief, but that they got the name wrong.... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...Father Arnold. She wears Nikes, remembering when her father Luke used to send her and Chess to buy cheap plastic tennis shoes in the Spokane supermarket. Now Checkers always buys Nikes,... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
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...black girl. She would follow the white girls around, wanting to be just like them. Chess told her they were better than the white girls any day, but Checkers never believed... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
...the reservation for a visit. They were supposed to all be friends, and once she, Chess, and the two white girls helped with Communion. In the storage closet, one of the... (full context)
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When the white nieces left, Chess and Checkers saw them off at the train, and Checkers wanted so desperately to go... (full context)
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In the van, Coyote Springs sleeps fitfully, frightened by the city. Chess is still awake, though, and she listens to the men’s nightmares. Junior dreams of horses,... (full context)
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Junior falls back asleep, but Thomas stays up with Chess. They discuss religion. Thomas tells her he was baptized Catholic, but quit the church at... (full context)
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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...landed and rock ’n’ roll the next day.” Thomas tells the interviewer that he and Chess voted against the two white women, but Junior and Victor voted them in with a... (full context)
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...Thomas tells him she stayed behind to sing in the Church choir. He says that Chess is also religious. The interviewer asks Thomas whether this seems odd, and Thomas tells him... (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... (full context)
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...beauties of the reservation, and thinks of his stories. He closes his eyes and tells Chess a story about how they were both slaughtered at Wounded Knee, that there was “a... (full context)
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Thomas smiles, and tells Chess his theory that you aren’t really Indian unless at some point you didn’t want to... (full context)
Chapter 6
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...It takes issue with Betty and Veronica, names Victor and Junior as drunks, calls out Chess and Checkers for being Flathead (not Spokane) Indians, and calls Thomas a “crazy storyteller.” It... (full context)
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On Sunday morning, Thomas accompanies Chess and Checkers to the Catholic church, fighting the urge to run away. Chess holds his... (full context)
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...band, suggesting that they have a lot of potential and describing them in commercial terms. Chess and Checkers, for example, would attract men with their “exotic animalistic woman thing.” Junior is... (full context)
Chapter 7
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
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...turns to Junior, laughing at his fear, and hands him two huge drumsticks. She calls Chess and Checkers by their real names, Eunice and Gladys, and leads them to a sweat... (full context)
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...to keep going, and they play once more through the song. That night, Thomas and Chess talk in their sleeping bag. Thomas tells a story, imagining that Coyote Springs is opening... (full context)
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...the feather, and whispers a prayer. Thomas produces a feather for each of them, and Chess tells Thomas she loves him. As they fly away, the reservation waits, collectively, for their... (full context)
Chapter 8
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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...then attacks the executives, who are angry that the “Indians” are rejecting their generous help. Chess and Checkers throw Sheridan’s money back in his face. Outside, Victor continues to rage, wanting... (full context)
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Chess, Checkers, and Thomas wait in their hotel lobby worrying about Victor and Junior—they want to... (full context)
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...Back in the bar, Victor interrupts Junior’s reverie. A police report records that Thomas and Chess have reported the pair as missing now. Checkers falls asleep in the hotel room, and... (full context)
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Chess and Thomas enter yet another bar, asking the pretty waitress about Victor and Junior. She... (full context)
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...that it is all over now. In the present, as the sun rises, Thomas and Chess return to the lobby and “discover America,” finding Victor asleep on a couch while Junior... (full context)
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...just had a nightmare, and wanted him to wait up with her until they returned. Chess goes to check on her, while Thomas and Junior try to look threatening. Wright tells... (full context)
Chapter 9
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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...even bothered to take their instruments home from New York. On the plane, Thomas and Chess had revealed their plans to leave the reservation. Junior had sat and thought of Lynn,... (full context)
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On the night before that, Thomas and Chess discuss their future while Checkers sleeps on the floor beside their bed, escaping from her... (full context)
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...dad is “way into the Indian thing,” since he has some portion of Cherokee blood. Chess tries to explain that Cherokee and Dakota are different tribes, but he doesn’t understand. Dakota... (full context)
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Chess and Thomas finally decide they will go to Spokane. The two of them and Checkers... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...mother and father. Big Mom and Father Arnold take turns leading the service, while Checkers, Chess, Victor, and Thomas watch. Lester and the three dogs are also present. The dogs howl,... (full context)
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Chess looks around the graveyard at all the Indians “killed by white people’s cars, alcohol, uranium,”... (full context)
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Checkers goes straight to bed after the funeral. Chess asks her if she’s still bothered by nightmares of Sheridan, and Checkers explains that now... (full context)
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Checkers refuses to speak to him alone, insisting that Chess stay with them. Arnold apologizes, but Checkers tells him it doesn’t matter, and that she... (full context)
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Big Mom lights sage, and Chess, Checkers, and Thomas get ready to pray, for everybody, as Big Mom puts on a... (full context)
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...Coyote Springs is gone. Victor wanders around the reservation with the three dogs, while Thomas, Chess, and Checkers prepare to leave for Spokane. Thomas tells Chess he isn’t worried about saying... (full context)
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...that he feels at home there, and that the people might need his music. As Chess, Checkers, and Thomas start to leave, Big Mom takes up a collection for them from... (full context)
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As they drive away in silence, Chess, Checkers, and Thomas think about the future. They finally admit that they are scared, and... (full context)