Category Archives: Alexie

“This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona”

In “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” Victor and Thomas touch on their feelings towards the American government a few times. During a Fourth of July party, Thomas mentions how strange is is that they celebrate the holiday because “it ain’t like it was [their] independence everybody was fighting for.” With this statement, Thomas expresses the disconnect he feels between his community and American society. This idea is brought up again when Thomas and Victor are speaking with the gymnast on the plane. The woman complains to the boys about her feelings towards the government in regards to the boycotting of the Olympic Games she would have been apart of. Thomas responds to the woman by saying, “sounds like you all got a lot in common with Indians.” This statement reinforces Thomas’ feelings of contempt towards the American government. The Olympic team was forgotten and forced to abandon all they had worked for in a similar way Native American communities have been repeatedly overlooked and displaced by the government.


“This is What it Mean” by Sherman Alexie tells the story about Victor and how his journey to Phoenix, Arizona to get his father’s ashes. The relationship with his friends and family is affected by the colonization. Victor is an Indian man. He grew up very poor and his mother is poor too. His father died of a heart attack and he needed money to go to Phoenix and pick up his father’s ashes back.The people in his area are poor too. Victor went to the Tribal Council to ask for help. But the Tribal Council couldn’t offer a lot of help, only $100. That is not enough for much. But Thomas offers to help him with money. Victor didn’t really have a good relationship with his father. The Indians were struggling to survive.  

This is What It Means

In “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona,” Sherman Alexie is writing about the loss of Native American culture and traditions. He is also writing about the loss of the communal spirit represented by tribes and their governing councils.

Thomas Builds-the-Fire is a storyteller. He represents the oral tradtion of their tribe. And though he talks a lot of nonsense, he says a lot of truth, like what he says about Victor’s father having a weak heart. But Victor doesn’t listen, and neither does anybody else. They beat up Thomas and isolate him so he goes crazy.

Thomas is a true friend to Victor. He gives him money and goes with him to Phoenix to get Victor’s father’s remains. It’s meaningful that they go to Phoenix. It’s a hot place in the desert where Victor’s father was turned to ashes. In mythology, the Phoenix is a bird that burned itself on a funeral pyre, then rose again

Victor has the chance to be reborn by reconnecting with Thomas and his tribal heritage. He decides not to, and lets it go. It’s as dead as the jackrabbit they run over in the road.

 Effects of Colonization on Identity

Victor this character, throughout the story THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS
ARIZONA we can see how colonization negatively affects Victor and his relationships. One key example that i noticed is his interaction with Cathy the gymnast.

Cathy the gymnast smiled and waved


“She was really nice,

” Thomas said.

“Yeah, but everybody talks to everybody on airplanes,

Victor said. “It’s too bad we can’t always be that way.”

“You always used to tell me I think too much,

” Thomas

said. “Now it sounds like you do.”

PAGE 108
Sherman Alexie

Here we are exposed to Victor’s mindset towards the outside world. We can see how he truly expects Americans to be unfriendly or judgmental of their lifestyle or way of being. This honestly eye-opening. We can come to the conclusion that Victor looked at himself as inferior to Cathy and was fearful to ever open up to interacting with americans. Maybe his surroundings painted Americans as enemies. We will never know but it’s a question that clears many uncertainties.



Victor quickly realizes how much has changed around him. He realizes how the idea of colonization has had a huge effect on his people. The reality of how native American faced so many problems like violence, poverty etc. Victor and his friend Thomas have overcome so many obstacles from the death of their father, as well as father absentee. The two boys have a strong desire to escape their reality. Although they different ideas on how their society should be.

“This is what it means to say Pheonix, Arizona”

Because of colonization, the lives of Victor, Thomas and most of those who live on the reservation, have been predetermined in a way. Many Native Americans like Victor and his parents rely on alcohol to keep their minds off of the fact that they might never have a life outside of their reservation. Victor’s father would even hit him when he was intoxicated out of frustration because he feels as if he has no control over his own life. Thomas himself has told Victor that his father “Wants to buy a motorcycle and ride away. He wants to run and hide (Paragraph 15)”. As we continue to read the story, we see that this kind of behavior rubs off on Victor. One day when they were 15, he got drunk and beat Thomas up without a reason. However, in the movie “Smoke Signals”, we see that this incident occurs on the same day that his father abandoned them, which reflects back to the way his father treated him when he would get drunk. In the second paragraph of “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”, the narrator points out that most of the residents had no money but the “Cigarette and Fireworks salespeople”. This reveals what most of the locals would spend their money on to keep themselves distracted. These examples show us how colonization has created setbacks for not only Victor but those around him and like him as well. Not only has it made living difficult but in the movie, we see how Victor feels as if he has to be strong and serious all the time so others will take seriously. He tells Thomas that Indians aren’t supposed to be smiling all the time and he has to “get stoic”. Victor feels as if he can’t be vulnerable because he’s Native American and wants others like him to embody this idea as well.

What it means to say Phoenix, Arizona.

In “What it means to say Phoenix, Arizona”, I think the colonization affected Victor’s friends and family economically and socially. I think they were affected economically because they were no jobs and no resources for them. Victor’s father moved to Phoenix probably to find a job so he could live better. Perhaps, because he was indian he was never hired and ended up living in a trailer. When Victor’s father died, Victor called the Tribal Council for help but all he could get was 100 dollars, this makes me think that they do not get funds from the Government. I think they were affected socially because they were isolated in the Spokade region of Washington.

This is What it Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona.

Victor had a best friend called Thomas ( he was a storyteller) they did everything togueter. One day when they were 15 they stopped being friends because Victor got drunk and beat Thomas without reason. 

I think the relationship beetween Victor and his father was normal but Victor didn’t know that his father would leave his family. He didn’t know that  his father was tired of the life he had at the reservation.  

I think that the relationship with his father was very affected because he was tired of living in a reservacion. I think his father felt like a prisoner there. I think Victor’s community did not receive the help they should have received from the goverment. They lived in bad condition. They could not even afford a plane ticket, that’s the reason his father felt that way and ran away from that place.   

The effects of colonization are devastating because colonizers took over their land, languages, cultures and identities. I think people that live in those reservations are struggling every day to survive, they live in economic instability and under government control that don’t respect their rights.