Smoke Signals by Sherman Alexie
Smoke Signals is a movie written by Sherman Alexie and directed by Chris Eyre that deals with many social issues in modern Native American cultures. The film follows the journey of two Coeur d’Alene Indians, Victor and Thomas, as they travel from their reservation in Oregon to Phoenix, AZ in order to gather the personal artifacts of Victor’s father who has recently died. Along the way, Thomas helps Victor to understand and forgive his father, who left the family when Victor was a young boy. Victor’s father, Arnold Joseph, saved both of the boys from a fire that he inadvertently caused on the 4th of July when the boys were mere babies. Although the boys were saved, Thomas’s parents both died in the blaze. Since then, Arnold Joseph has carried the guilt of what he has done silently, using alcohol to try and bury the memory. As the years progress Arnold Joseph begins abusing his family, which finally leads to his wife telling him that there will be no more drinking after she realizes what it is doing to their son. Arnold Joseph once again runs from the situation, much like he did the night of the fire, unable to handle the consequences of his actions.
Arnold flees to Phoenix, AZ where he carries out the rest of his days, never speaking to his family again, but silently wishing that he could go back home. He dies before overcoming his feelings of guilt, and upon hearing of his death Victor decides to go to Phoenix to retrieve his fathers personal artifacts. Victor has no money with which to fund his trip south, however his friend Thomas offers him enough money to make the journey provided that Victor brings him along. Together, they set out on a bus to Phoenix, and along the way, with the help of Thomas, Victor begins his inner journey that will eventually lead to understanding and forgiving his father once they return to the reservation.
The Indian Spirit Lives
From the very beginning you can see a glimmer of spirit in some of the Indians living on the reservation. The local radio personality, for example, made light of their situation nearly every time he was on the screen. His weather and traffic man is a jovial Indian, comfortably seated atop a van out in the middle of nowhere. He has an umbrella set up to shade him from the harsh rays of the sun, and it looks like he sits there on the roof of his van day in and day out. He speaks to the radio announcer over a cell phone, and his reports are given in a humorous way. When asked about the traffic, he replies that about a half an hour ago a car drove by and that's about it. He didn't seem to mind at all that he was away from the hustle and bustle we associate with life in this day and age. When they spoke about the impoverished conditions of the Indians, it was almost as if they had accepted their lot in life, and was doing the best they could under the conditions given to them. Not once did even a hint of anger at the white man enter their his voice.