For the better part of the novel, Kit Carson is portrayed as an honorable man. He befriends Latour and Vaillant, saves Vaillant when the priest is overcome by black measles, and gives shelter to Magdalena. As an agent of the United States government, however, Carson performs despicable acts to force the Navajos from their lands. In this, Cather might be suggesting that submitting to governmental authority without benefit of religious guidance can lead to immoral acts. The Navajos' exile lasts five years, before the government reverses its policy, allowing the Indians to return. Government policies change according to politicians' whims, whereas Roman Catholic policies change very little, if at all.