Rayona (Ray-yawn-uh) A fifteen-year-old girl whose mother is Indian and father is black. Rayona struggles throughout the novel to find a personal identity that acknowledges both her biracial heritage and her own specialized place in the world. Hers is a coming-of-age story.
Christine Rayona's Indian mother, who, like her daughter, seems confused about her place in the world but resiliently fights for a better future for Rayona than she herself has.
Elgin Rayona's black father and Christine's husband. He and Christine jointly agree that theirs is a better life apart from each other, although Rayona suffers from their choice.
Aunt Ida Christine's legal mother and Rayona's grandmother. Ida lives on a Montana reservation and watches television most of the day.
Lee Aunt Ida's son and Christine's brother, who dies in the Vietnam War.
Dayton Nickles Lee's best friend, with whom Christine lives when she returns to the reservation.
Willard Pretty Dog Lee's father, although no one but Ida knows this fact.
Clara Christine's biological mother and Ida's aunt. Ida refuses to tell Christine that Clara is Christine's mother.
Father Hurlburt A Catholic priest on the reservation who is Ida's lifelong friend and confidant.
Father Tom Another Catholic priest on the reservation. He makes inappropriate sexual advances toward Rayona.
Pauline Cree Ida's sister.
Kennedy "Foxy" Cree Pauline's son and Rayona's cousin, who ridicules Rayona because of her biracial heritage.
Annabelle Stiffarm Foxy's girlfriend. At first, Annabelle is as cruel to Rayona as Foxy is, but she ultimately makes friends with Rayona.
Evelyn Dial A nurturing woman who works at Bearpaw Lake and befriends Rayona.
Norman "Sky" Dial Evelyn's husband, an easygoing man who accepts life at face value.
Ellen DeMarco A lifeguard at Bearpaw Lake. Rayona idealizes Ellen as the picture-perfect girl.
Charlene Christine's neighbor and friend in Seattle.
Andy, Dave, and John Rayona's coworkers at Bearpaw Lake.
Mrs. Pretty Dog Willard Pretty Dog's overprotective mother, who dislikes Ida.