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Later on, his grandmother, who Junior looks up to the most on the reservation, is hit and killed by a drunk driver.After his grandmother's funeral, a family friend, Eugene, is shot in the face by his friend Bobby after fighting over alcohol.When Junior's dog Oscar gets heat stroke, his father must put him down because they cannot afford to take him to a veterinarian.
As a result, Junior has always been picked on by other people on the reservation.
Junior’s family is extremely poor and have limited access to opportunities.
After grieving and reflecting on his loved ones' deaths, Junior plays in his basketball team's second match against Wellpinit. Junior feels triumphant until he sees the Wellpinit players' faces after their defeat and remembers the difficulties they face at home and their lack of hope for a future; ashamed, he runs to the locker room, where he vomits and then breaks down in tears.
Later, Junior receives news of the death of his sister and her husband who were killed in a fire at their trailer.
Roger suggests that Junior try out for the basketball team, and to Junior's surprise, he makes the varsity team, which pits him against his former school, Wellpinit, and specifically Rowdy, who is Wellpinit's star freshman.
Their first match demonstrates to Junior just how angry the reservation people are at him for transferring: when he enters the court, they boo and insult him.
Despite his intimidating role, Rowdy often stands up for Junior and they bond by enjoying kids' comics.
Junior's first day of high school is pivotal to the plot of the novel. P, his geometry teacher, passes him his textbook, he sees his mother’s name in it, realizing that the book must be at least 30 years old. P convinces Junior to transfer to Reardan High School, sensing a degree of precociousness in the young teenager.
Furthermore, the protagonist is torn between the need to fit in his new, all-white school and holding on to his Indian heritage, leading him to face criticism from his own community.
Despite these challenges, they also help him see how much his family and his new friends love him, and he learns to see himself as both Indian and American.