True Son/Johnny The protagonist, or main character, in the novel. The two names refer to John Cameron Butler, a Pennsylvania native whom Lenni Lenape braves (referred to by whites as "Delaware Indians") captured in July 1753 at age four and reared for eleven years as Lenni Quis (translated as "True Son"), the son of Cuyloga and Quaquenga. True Son/Johnny is then forced to return to Paxton, Pennsylvania, his birthplace. In white man's clothes, he bears himself with an intensity that suggests dignity but potential conflict.
Cuyloga A Lenni Lenape brave and adoptive father to True Son. Cuyloga is a serious, deep-thinking parent who teaches his adopted son about the Great Spirit and helps tame True Son's stubborn streak with wise words. To the boy, he is "an oak sheltering them from both the heat of the sun and the fury of the thunderbolt." To the tribe, he serves as He-Who-Knows-the-Marks, the best of woodsmen. He is True Son's stout defender, facing down a war party that forces him to choose between tribal loyalty and parental love.
Quaquenga Cuyloga's wife and True Son's adoptive mother. The boy remembers her as "a spreading sugar maple providing them all with food and warmth." Her fears for her son suggest a deep love for him.
A'astonah; Mechelit True Son's native younger and older sisters, who shudder behind Quaquenga as they watch their brother take his place among adult members of Thitpan's war party.
Half Arrow The son of Quaquenga's brother Sumakek, or Black Fish. Half Arrow is True Son's favorite cousin and faithful companion. He follows the column of returnees to Fort Pitt and keeps up a flow of jokes and laughter to cheer his pal. Half Arrow arrives in Paxton at True Son's lowest point, caused by fever and homesickness. When he has the option of voting for True Son/Johnny's execution, Half Arrow casts no vote and flees into the forest.
Make Daylight A family friend of Cuyloga who committed suicide after his wife brought disgrace by deserting him for another man.
Little Crane Another Lenni Lenape friend to True Son who follows his white wife on the march to Fort Pitt. Wilse Owens, True Son/Johnny's uncle, kills and scalps Little Crane in Mehargue's pasture.
Kringas Half Arrow's great-uncle, who teaches the boys about the bounty of nature that the Great Spirit gives Indians.
Harry Butler True Son/Johnny's white father, a pale, downcast landowner whose Paxton farmstead attests to wealth and success. While observing Johnny's suffering from a mysterious fever, he blames himself for failing to guard against the Indian raid that carried True Son/Johnny from home for eleven years.
Myra Espy Butler True Son/Johnny's birthmother, a black-haired, black-eyed invalid confined to an upstairs bedroom. In genuine welcome, she greets her teen-aged son with tender compassion and a kiss.
Gordie Butler True Son/Johnny's white brother, a lively child of undisclosed age born after his brother's capture. Gordie admires True Son/Johnny.
Aunt Kate Stewart Harry's sister, a pious, stiff-necked housekeeper for the Butler household. She disapproves of her nephew True Son/Johnny in native dress and carries off his hunting frock and leggings to end his standoff over wearing white men's garments. When he lies near death, she returns his clothes, perhaps out of both guilt and concern for his welfare.
Uncle Wilse Owens A powerful, overweight man who is a respected leader in Paxton. He hates Indians and believes that all of them should be killed. With harsh words and unfriendly eyes, he makes fun of True Son/Johnny's native upbringing, believing that every Indian's life is full of stealing, lying, butchering, and scalping.
Alec Owens Wilse's overweight son, who stares at True Son/Johnny wearing the jacket and pants he once wore.
Uncle George Owens A skinny man who considers Indians "devils."
Colonel Henry Bouquet The leader of the expedition west to the Muskingum to take custody of white captives living among the Indians. History paints a dark picture of cruelty and genocide in the real Henry Bouquet.
Del Hardy The twenty-year-old guide for Colonel Bouquet. Having lived among the Delaware in boyhood, the guide is nicknamed "Del" for his skill at speaking the tribe's language. Sturdy, red-haired, and good-humored, he is an excellent choice of interpreter for Colonel Bouquet on the hundred-mile march from Fort Pitt west into hostile Indian territory. Unlike other whites involved in the return of captives, Del knows that native parents devote themselves to the white children whom they adopt.
David Owens The hated "squaw man," a white husband of a Muskingum Indian woman. When Owens decided to return to Philadelphia, he killed his wife and three daughters and kept their scalps. He doesn't physically appear in the book, but we learn much about him.
Peter Wormley A Derry township tailor later identified as "the Reading tailor."
Andy Goff A colonial shoemaker.
Bejance A black man who makes baskets, he shares True Son's role of the racial outsider. Bejance observes the boy giving in to white society and losing his native character.
Corn Blade A native Indian who speaks Lenni Lenape and lives atop a distant mountain like a religious hermit.
Neal A Paxton farmer who joins Mr. Butler and Uncle Wilse in returning True Son/Johnny and Gordie from their journey to visit Corn Blade.
Parson Elder/Colonel Elder A minister to the townships of Paxton and Derry. Also, he is a farmer and captain of the Peshtanks, a local band of racist vigilantes. Elder predicts that True Son/Johnny will eventually return to white ways.
Dr. Childsley A local physician who attends True Son/Johnny during an undiagnosed fever and bleeds him to remove the taint of an Indian diet.
Thitpan Little Crane's warrior brother, who refuses to welcome True Son back to the village because True Son failed to kill and scalp Little Crane's murderers. In the final scenes, Thitpan humiliates and berates True Son and votes that he be executed by burning at the stake.
High Bank, Niskitoon, and Cheek Bone Thitpan's original party of warriors.
Under-the-Hill, Pepallistank, and Kschippihelleu Recruits to Thitpan's war party.
Sumakek (Black Fish) Half Arrow's father and Quaquenga's brother, whose command of woods lore passes to his son and, during the return from Paxton, on to True Son/Johnny.