Firekeeper’s Daughter

Firekeeper’s Daughter

by

Angeline Boulley

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Firekeeper’s Daughter: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As Mom gives Daunis a pill and water and helps her into bed, Daunis shivers. She remembers shaking during her coming-of-age fast, and how Auntie later told her that shivering is fine—you’re in trouble if you stop. Daunis wakes in the sunlight, Mom asleep next to her, and remembers Lily dying. She’d like to take another pill and go back to sleep, but she knows that Lily is beginning her four-day journey to the next world. Each day has a different purpose; today, Lily will mourn her family and friends. So, Daunis leaves semaa under the prayer tree, rejects Mom’s offer of a bath, and says she needs to go sit with Lily’s body and Granny June at the funeral home.
Remembering Auntie’s advice about shivering helps Daunis focus on the fact that she’s still alive, despite her crushing grief. She still cares, and this means she has the emotional stamina to face her grief and spend time with others who are also experiencing grief. As Daunis leaves the semaa and begins to explain what Lily’s four-day journey entails, it seems to give Daunis comfort. This highlights how set grieving rituals help the living make sense of their grief; it gives them a framework and a way to find closure.
Themes
Ceremony, Pride, and Healing Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
At the funeral home, Daunis hugs Granny June and studies Lily’s body in the casket. Nothing feels real. She looks around for Auntie, but Auntie must be at home with Art, tending the ceremonial fire. Art comes from a different community, but like Daunis’s family, he also learned firekeeping duties: firekeepers strike fires for ceremonies, funerals, and sweat lodges. Art must be tending Lily’s fire, which will stay lit for four days and then burn forever in the other world.
Though Auntie’s absence is painful, it’s still comforting for Daunis to know that Auntie is at home, helping with Lily’s ceremonial fire. Art’s role in the funerary proceedings also highlights how communal death is for Daunis’s Ojibwe community: lots of non-family folks in the community emerge to play specific ceremonial roles and help everyone grieve.
Themes
Ceremony, Pride, and Healing Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
On the second day, Lily’s mom, Maggie, arrives, insisting she had to buy her kids church clothes before she could come. Daunis is angry—Mom would be glued to the casket if Daunis were dead. Lily always referred to herself as Maggie’s “practice baby,” but Auntie told Daunis and Lily to remember that Maggie was raised by the only sister in her family who didn’t die by suicide after being beaten and abused at the residential schools. Now, Daunis reminds herself to not judge Maggie too harshly.
Daunis has a really specific idea of what a parent’s love for their child should look like. However, she also has to remind herself here that the generational trauma caused by the residential schools still affects people in her community and how they express their love. Auntie seems to imply that Maggie might be the daughter of the least traumatized sister, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t have a traumatic upbringing—and Lily, two generations on, continued to pay the price.
Themes
Generational Trauma and Bigotry Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Quotes
When Daunis takes the ferry to Sugar Island later, she thinks about Lily’s journey today: Lily will atone for every living creature she harmed during her life. Noticing that a bunch of Travis’s cousins are in the car next to her, Daunis thinks of how Travis will have to atone for taking Lily. Daunis hopes that Travis’s second day lasts an eternity and is painful, but then she reminds herself to think good thoughts for Lily.
Again, Daunis continues to take solace in Ojibwe grieving rituals. It’s nice to know what Lily’s doing, and though Daunis acknowledges it’s not kind, it’s also satisfying to know that Travis is going to have to face up to all the pain and suffering he’s caused.
Themes
Ceremony, Pride, and Healing Theme Icon
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