The characters within Powwow Highway are going through different journeys. Buddy and Philbert are struggling with their identity, and their place in the world, that each is dealing with. The road and their physical trip become symbols for the type of emotional and mental growth and changes that they are undergoing. They are definitely experiencing very different changes, and their internal narratives and "traveling" do not coincide with each other. This is exemplified very clearly in their road trip, especially in the early stages. Buddy needs to go to get his sister out of jail (which symbolizes his internal struggles) but Philbert who is the driver is on a different course, that takes them to the Dakotas and throughout middle USA. It is interesting to see the intersection of their paths and how their understandings of their own identity shape their road trip
Philbert is on a journey to really connect with his indian heritage. He has reached inside himself to completely embrace his identity as a cheyenne. This acceptance is shown throughout the narrative, by Philbert traveling throughout the midwest looking for symbols of his heritage. His journey gets in the way of Buddy's plans. Buddy has to constantly try to get Philbert to hurry up, to not make extra stops on the road, to not got into a family's home and eat dinner.
Buddy has spent his life defending his tribe from the government and from white outsiders that are trying to take advantage of them. But he is reluctant to accept or embrace aspects of his heritage, like dancing rituals, clothing and some of the histories and narratives passed down through the generations. That is why he and Philbert are trying to go down different paths. It is through seeing Philbert really cherish the cheyenne past, that Buddy begins to himself accept and embrace it. Philbert is seen throughout the movie as being the lucky one; he finds a lot of money, he manages to free Bonnie from the jail and he survives a car crash. So the fact that he is sure of his personal identity is translated onto the trip as his luck at being at the right place at the right time throughout their trip.
Buddy also at the end begins to reach a place where he is comfortable with his identity. During a fighting scene he puts on a warrior ornament; the movie even shows him in a full traditional attire. The road trip is an expression of the internal ideas and ideals of these two men. Philbert, with his sure identity, is constantly in search of marks of his heritage, and is quite content and happy throughout all the trip. Buddy, with a evolving identity, struggles with understanding himself and understanding Philbert. But in the end he reaches a point of acceptance and embrace of being cheyenne, which is truly shown when Philbert gives Buddy the Buddy's warrior neck ornament that Philbert saved from the car fire.