The speaker is fictional, the "mess" is unspecified. "We" refers to American Indians, but I think it includes all of us. If you believe that some of us are "it." and others of us are "shit", it doesn't matter so much which category you place yourself in. A recent LJ postdamenmidway quotes a homeless person refusing a hand up because he doesn't believe in giving money to homeless people.. All you have to do is be a part of a world where elitist perceptions prevail and you get caught up in that morass of action and feeling.
I like fiction because it allows novelists to say in a few succinct words what social scientists sometimes never get said. Pages earlier in this novel, Nash's mother is conducting a seminar in Native American Studies in which the reasons for the European domination of the Western Hemisphere are outlined. In six pages of discussion that I would have been very proud of as a teacher, she never came close to the "I'm it, you're shit" theory of colonialism that, on reflection, is so right on.
I picked The Crown of Columbus to accompany me during my MOHS surgery because I admire, puzzle over, feel sorry for, etc that tragic Native American couple, Michael Dorris and Louise Erdrich. Do I blame Columbus for what happened to them. Well, yes and no. Yes because it is almost impossible to cure history, especially when noone admits to the need for its healing. No, because the ATTITUDE was pandemic in Fitteenth century Europe. If Columbus had not sailed the ocean blue in 1492, some Spaniard or Portuguee or Frenchman would have done so in 1493 or 4 or 5 or 6 or 7.