Identity politics have a rather large role in the film Powwow Highway through the two separate, yet intrinsically connected journeys. Buddy, who begins in the film as a heavy player in the economics and wellbeing of the Lame Deer Reservation, acting as an activist and voice for the folks of the Reservation, making sure that the government and big companies are unable to access the land for profit. When Buddy's estranged sister calls Buddy and needs to be bailed from jail he enlists his friend Philbert, who has just purchased a new car, his 'war pony' to drive him to New Mexico.
It is at this point where identity politics become a huge part of the plot. This is because the shift goes from Buddy, the outspoken activist, to Philbert, the soft spoken loof of a man. Philbert, who traded drugs and booze (and money) for his car, seemed to be a relatively politically and culturally uninterested member of the Cheyenne nation. However, upon the trip off of the Reservation Philbert begins to become infatuated with the idea of the men being "The Cheyenne," becoming interested in the history and teachings of his people. He often stops or makes unexpected detours in order to complete his spiritual journey, which begins to irritate Buddy. In the end, however, Buddy is appreciative of Philbert's quirky need to reconnect to their culture, because Philbert is the one who ultimately pushes the narrative and story along, liberating Buddy's sister from jail and caring for her two children. Philbert's spirituality and need for culture ultimately penetrates into Buddy's life, creating unity between the two men, a mutual respect that certainly didn't exist before the trip.