Firekeeper’s Daughter

Firekeeper’s Daughter

by

Angeline Boulley

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Firekeeper’s Daughter: Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Daunis drives the Jeep to Sugar Island and offers semaa to the river on the ferry—she needs help, as she has to put the clues together and figure out what Jamie meant, not sit for a lecture. At the house, Auntie leads Daunis to the clearing, where Art is tending the fire for a sweat lodge. Auntie snaps that it’s an “Intervention sweat”; she made this ceremony up. Daunis puts on the cotton skirt Auntie offers here and then she and Auntie smudge themselves with the female variety of sage. She crawls into the sweat lodge, or the madoosiswan, behind Auntie, praying for humility. Daunis “gives [her]self up,” knowing she’s part of something bigger.
Daunis doesn’t fully grasp what Auntie is doing until she gets to Auntie’s property and realizes they’re here to sweat. This is meant to connect Daunis to her culture and reorient Daunis to the people who Auntie believes should have Daunis’s loyalty: her family and the Tribe (rather than the FBI). When Daunis is willing to “give [her]self up,” she concedes that she has, perhaps, lost sight of what’s most important—and if only to repair her relationship with Auntie, entering the sweat lodge and participating in this ceremony is important.
Themes
Justice Theme Icon
Ceremony, Pride, and Healing Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
After, Daunis and Auntie sit by the fire eating hominy soup and blueberry galette. Daunis privately remembers her “berry feast.” She got her first Moon at age 13, and she decided to do a berry fast. Daunis couldn’t eat berries, her favorite fruit, for a whole year, and Auntie even tested Daunis by taking her blueberry picking. At the end of the year, all of Daunis’s Nish kwe relatives came to celebrate her passage into womanhood. Now, Daunis is grateful to Auntie, who’s shown her how to be a strong Nish kwe. Still, Daunis knows she can’t tell Auntie what’s going on.
The ceremonial sweat, even if it was Auntie’s creation, leads Daunis to turn her attention to the other ceremonies that have made her feel fulfilled, supported, and accepted by the community. She realizes now that she can’t simply ignore Auntie, the person who’s taught her so much about being a strong woman. Rather, Daunis should take Auntie’s advice and examples and with those, make her own choices.
Themes
Ceremony, Pride, and Healing Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Quotes
When Daunis notices a plate of food that Art left at the edge of the woods, Auntie says it’s an offering for the Little People, who came to check on them. Daunis asks if the Little People would get angry if they discovered people messing with things they shouldn’t, but Auntie says that most people who know about “bad medicine” won’t leave it for others to find—they respect its power and want to protect others. Auntie tells Daunis to be careful when she asks about the “old ways,” and she shares a saying about bad medicine: “Know and understand your brother but do not seek him.” After they both offer semaa to the fire, Auntie tells Daunis to trust herself to listen to the things she learns that make sense and leave the rest behind.
Auntie essentially lets Daunis know that her sleuthing during the Elder lunches hasn’t been all that sneaky; Auntie can tell she’s up to something. Interestingly, though, Auntie doesn’t tell Daunis to stop. She just tells Daunis to be careful and implies that Daunis should become one of those who seeks to respect “bad medicine” and protect others from it. Further, she implies that Daunis should trust her gut, something Daunis has only done some of the time thus far. Interestingly, Auntie uses the same term as David—“bad medicine”—suggesting that David was, perhaps, more versed in Native medicinal practices than Daunis realized. At the very least, it seems like David tried to do what Auntie encourages Daunis to do here—he was helping the FBI to try to protect others from “bad medicine.” .
Themes
Justice Theme Icon
Ceremony, Pride, and Healing Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Daunis senses her relationship with Auntie changing—she’s moving ahead into womanhood, and Auntie is letting her. Auntie says she’s glad Daunis is figuring things out early and describes a guy she dated before Art, who just wanted to control her. Now, she knows that love honors both people’s spirits in a relationship. Privately, Daunis thinks of Lily’s final words to Travis, that they needed to be their own people and that she couldn’t keep supporting him. Travis, Daunis realizes, didn’t really love Lily. He didn’t want her to have a good life. He wanted to control her, and he killed her out of selfishness.
Auntie respects Daunis’s ability to make her own choices, even if she doesn’t entirely agree with those choices. However, she still has advice to dispense. It’s possible to apply Auntie’s advice to relationships, as Daunis does as she considers Lily and Travis. However, it’s also worth considering whether the FBI (and by extension, Ron and Jamie) is also trying to control Daunis and exploit her, rather than respect her wishes and keep her safe.
Themes
Justice Theme Icon
Love, Honesty, and Respect Theme Icon
Quotes
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Firekeeper’s Daughter PDF
Rather than sleep at Auntie’s, Daunis drives home. While she waits for the ferry, she reads through Uncle David’s mushroom research and tears out those five pages. It’ll look like David didn’t finish his research. She knows now that the kids in Minnesota didn’t hallucinate—the Little People visited them and told them to leave the bad medicine alone. But if the FBI continues to search for a hallucinogenic mushroom, they’ll leave other traditional medicines alone. Daunis burns the five torn-out pages and offers semaa as the ferry crosses the river. She thanks Creator for trusting her with information and with the responsibility of protecting her community. Now, she’s pretty sure she knows how Travis created meth-X.
Neither Daunis nor David trust the FBI to properly understand or appreciate whatever bad medicine was used to create meth-X. Mushrooms, they seem to assume, are something the FBI can understand—hallucinogenic mushrooms have long been of interest to the government’s drug-control efforts. Realizing what David intended to do and helping him complete his mission helps Daunis feel closer to her family; it also helps her feel as though she’s doing something meaningful to help her community.
Themes
Justice Theme Icon
Generational Trauma and Bigotry Theme Icon
Ceremony, Pride, and Healing Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon