Back on the wharf, the three Aleut cousins are still waiting for their boat. Jackson asks if they’ve seen it yet; they’ve seen a lot of boats, but not theirs. Jackson sits down with them, and they sit in silence for a long time. He starts daydreaming about his grandmother again and feels sad that he’d never seen her dance in her regalia. He wishes more than anything that he could’ve seen her dance at a powwow.
The Aleuts’ boat hasn’t come, which is a metaphor for impossibility of returning home for Indian Americans whose homes have been stolen from them for centuries. Jackson’s wish that he could have seen his grandmother dance in her regalia is an intense desire to regain the pieces of his culture that have been stolen from him.
Jackson asks the Aleut cousins if they know any songs. They tell him that they know all of Hank Williams’s songs, but Jackson wants to hear sacred Indian songs. The Aleuts tell him that Hank Williams is both Indian and sacred, but Jackson explains that he wants to hear the ceremonial songs that Indians sing back home when they are wishing and hoping for something.
Jackson’s request that the Aleuts sing him ceremonial songs points to his continued yearning to connect with American Indian culture. The fact that American Indians sing these ceremonial songs when they are wishing and hoping demonstrates the effect that loss and grief have had on their culture.
The Aleuts ask Jackson what he’s wishing and hoping for, and he tells them that he wishes his grandmother were alive. The Aleuts tell him that every song is about that wish, so Jackson asks that they sing as many as they know. The cousins sing their “strange and beautiful songs” that are about Jackson’s grandmother as well as their own grandmothers. Jackson thinks that “they were lonesome for the cold and snow. I was lonesome for everything.”
The Aleuts say every American Indian song they know is about wishing that their grandmothers were alive. This points to the way that loss and grief permeate the culture of American Indians due to centuries of oppression. The Aleuts yearn for the cold and snow of their home, while Jackson yearns for everything he’s lost: family, a home, and his culture and identity.