"This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" by Native American author Sherman Alexie is a short story from Alexie's novel "Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven." The short story served as the basis for Chris Eyre's independent film "Smoke Signals."
The opening of "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" reveals a reservation-based Native American named Victor as he asks the tribal council to give him means to retrieve his father's body from outside the reservation. He is given $100 and told to find a friend with a car, so he makes a deal with his childhood friend Thomas to ride in his car as long as they go together. Although Victor is somewhat embarrassed of Thomas, who clings to tribal traditions, thinks too much and is an avid storyteller, the two begin to understand each other throughout their long road trip.The short story is deceptively simple with themes of tradition and modernization told with a touch of humor.
Alexie also wrote the screenplay for the film "Smoke Signals," which was well-received at numerous film festivals when it was released in 1998. The film stars Adam Beach and Evan Adams as Victor and Thomas, and it is unique as an exclusively Native American production from director and screenwriter to producers and actors.