It is clear throughout the first half of the novel, Junior is restricted in terms of his life-style. This is especially the case when one considers his relationship to his parents. Both his mother and father can be seen to be unreliable. This is especially the case with regard to his education. At key points in the first half of the novel, both of Junior’s parents are shown as being unable to pay attention to his obvious academic ability, and they also offer him no assistance when he moves to high-school outside of the reservation; even going so far as to force him to walk thirty miles to attend school simply because they cannot get out of bed.
As such, throughout major sections of the novel, it appears as if Junior is simply restricted by his Native American background. Indeed, throughout the novel he endures an immense amount of pain as a result of the alcoholism which is endemic to the reservation community. Not only does alcohol lead to Junior losing one of his closest friends, but it also leads to him losing his sister and her husband. At the same time, however, a key part of Junior’s coming of age and growing up stems from his ability to understand sympathize with other members of the reservation, rather than simply holding resentment for them. This awareness is shown when Junior and his team win the basketball game and, instead of fully being able to celebrate, he is struck with the knowledge of what the other team face on their reservation, and the contrast between their lives and the lives of his fellow students.
It is possible to argue, therefore, that the as the novel ends, Junior is able to realize that, although he is from the reservation, he also fits into the world around him. Indeed, Junior’s coming of age may also be seen to be marked this realization. It is shown, for example, in the fact that he realizes at his sister’s grave that his parents love him and are genuinely proud of him. It is also shown with his realization that he is able to maintain far closer bonds on the reservation than his fellow students are in their community, despite that fact that they live far more affluent and privileged life-styles. As such, Junior ends the novel with the ability to synthesize his Native American heritage and the other aspects of his character into a unique sense of self. Although he still, in some sense, “belongs” on the reservation, he is able to leave it and to take the lessons has learned with him.
In conclusion, the novel ends with the suggestion that Junior is no longer in conflict with his identity as a Native American, but rather that he is able to exist both as an American and a Native American. He therefore fits in both with the reservation and with the outside world, or rather, he is able to exist in both because he has a strong enough sense of self. A the end of the novel, Junior has actually overcome old restrictions and has emerged as a fully formed and mature person. In this sense, it is possible to argue that he ends the novel as someone who has come of age.