The game began, and Sis controlled its pulse. She had been averaging 13 points a game, but even on those nights this year when the pressure wrapped itself around her and her shot betrayed her, she stood out as the true natural, moving the ball casually between her legs and behind her back, cross-dribbling on the fly, seeing everything without seeming to look—bang!—suddenly the ball was in a teammate's hands beneath the hoop. "When I saw what she could do with the ball," says teammate Stacey Johnson, "I was, like, wow! I was like, dang! I was like, whoa! Her passes shock you."
"I look around at the crowd," says Bobby White, a controller in the tribal administration office at Window Rock, "and I see Anglos saying, 'Wow!' and I feel good. What Ryneldi is doing is saying for all our people, 'See, we can do things too.' She's not just fitting in with the non-Navajo. She's leading them. She's running the show."
The game ended, and a few dozen of the People waited in the seats for Sis to shower and emerge. Little kids with pencil and paper and looks of awe. Old ones who shook her hand softly, told her to walk in beauty and then asked when she was coming home.
On Sunday morning the battered gold Cutlass would return to the Land of the People, everyone inside it stiff from the nights passed on Ray Jr.'s apartment floor. Soon the car would begin the journey to Tempe all over again, but before it did, it would pull off to the side of the road, near the same cedar tree. A 47-year-old man would hobble out, holding the sprig that the hot air coming through the dashboard vent had turned brown on the last trip. Before snapping off a fresh piece, he would gently lay the used sprig at the foot of the tree. He would shrug when he was asked why. It was just where it belonged.