It’s been 10 months since Daunis’s hospitalization. Powwows aren’t ceremonies, but they’re healing nevertheless—and at the annual powwow on the third week of August, Daunis’s community needs healing. During the most recent tribal election, a banishment referendum barely passed. With its passage, any tribal member convicted of a felony drug crime will attend a banishment hearing and face a banishment of up to five years. It’s supposed to get rid of drug dealers while offering compassion to those who are in recovery. Banished members are still members, but they can’t receive any benefits—including per-cap payments.
The FBI has gotten those responsible for cooking and selling meth out of Sault Ste. Marie, but it’s still up to the community to decide what happens next. This is, incidentally, what Daunis told Jamie needed to happen a year ago: the FBI can’t expect to swoop in with the plan that will magically fix things. Rather, the Tribe itself, which knows its members and its culture, is best positioned to come up with something like the banishment referendum that will do the most good.
Dana Firekeeper will be the first person to appear at a hearing. She pled guilty in federal court in exchange for no jail time, and last week she was found guilty in Tribal Court of dereliction of justice for all her meth mistrials. She won’t go to jail, but she’s been charged the maximum fines. Public opinion is split on whether she got off easy or is being used as an example of what happens to powerful women.
Daunis, interestingly, offers no opinion on whether Dana got off easy or is being unfairly punished. This suggests Daunis realizes that justice isn’t straightforward or easy. Even when someone is punished, as in this case, it won’t always be clear if the punishment is appropriate.
That Friday, Daunis picks up Granny June and drives to Auntie and Art’s house. At the clearing, they join over 100 women. Auntie tells a story about a young Nish girl who’d gather pansies with her nokomis every summer. The girl’s nokomis would set aside the yellow pansies, but she wouldn’t tell the girl why. Finally, when the girl became a woman, she stopped asking about the yellow pansies. She couldn’t tell her nokomis that a man hurt her. At the end of that summer, the nokomis took the woman to a clearing, where women all took a yellow pansy and prayed. The girl then understood what the pansies were for, and she prayed and “released her pain.”
This ceremony is for Native sexual assault victims, such as Daunis—but also, given the fact that they’re here, for Auntie and Granny June. Sexual assault, this shows, is a bigger problem in Daunis’s community than she may have previously realized. But she and the girl in the story can find some peace by connecting with other women who have suffered in the same way and by ceremonially offering the pansies to the fire.
Daunis takes a pansy and watches woman approach the fire to offer their pansies. She thinks of what Grant did to her and prays. When she sits back next to Granny June, Granny June says that Lily was always thankful that Daunis never attended this ceremony—Lily started coming to this ceremony when she came to live with Granny June. Daunis cries: Lily had secrets, and she tried to protect Daunis from them. But on the way back over the ferry, Daunis realizes with relief that Macy wasn’t at the ceremony. She offers semaa to the river and prays thankfully for all the Nish women and girls who didn’t have to come.
Lily, recall, came to live with Granny June in sixth grade—so she would’ve been abused as a child. Daunis’s tears are for Lily, but she also seems to recognize how naïve and privileged she was as a kid, since she didn’t pick up on Lily’s many clues that she was abused. The ceremony is both restorative and painful for Daunis. Offering her pansy to the fire does make her feel better, but knowing how many women in her community suffer is still weighty and painful.
On Sunday, Daunis peruses the vendor stalls and refuses to tell anyone who asks about Levi anything. From Auntie, who she believes is in contact with Ron, Daunis knows that Levi is being held without bond until his trial. He hasn’t accepted plea offerings, but that might change now that the prosecution has a “star witness.” That person isn’t Daunis, and it’s not Stormy, who has said nothing in English since his arrest. (Stormy’s parents speak to him in Anishinaabemowin when they visit daily, and they drum outside the prison each night.) Mike is still at large; his parents divorced. The star witness is Coach Bobby. When he accepted the plea deal to testify against Levi, Daunis started having nightmares about not being able to crash Coach Bobby’s car and being taken to cook meth. She burns sweetgrass, prays, and wears Dad’s choker when she has those dreams.
Stormy’s experience in prison mirrors the poster Daunis saw on his parents’ wall, which depicted Nish parents camping out outside of a residential school to be close to their children. This suggests that in some regards, the prison system replicates some of the residential schools’ atrocities, highlighting again that Daunis’s Native community continues to suffer trauma into the present day. Learning that Coach Bobby is the star witness also reiterates that justice isn’t easy or straightforward. As Daunis sees it, Coach deserves to be punished, not have the opportunity to lessen his sentence by testifying against her brother.
On Sunday, Daunis prays for love. Today her mourning period for Lily ends, and she’ll dance for the first time since Uncle David died. Daunis asks to braid Pauline’s and Perry’s hair for the Grand Entry so she can tell them about her college plans: she’s going to the University of Hawaii to study ethnobotany. Ethnobotany “look[s] at things with Indigenous eyes,” and she’ll also apprentice with Seeney Nimkee so she can eventually be a traditional medicine practitioner and a scientist. Pauline and Perry ask if they can go to museums and surf when they visit.
In the last year, Daunis’s dreams and plans have changed somewhat. She no longer dreams of becoming a doctor in the traditional Western sense: instead, she wants to continue to combine her interest in traditional Native medicine with the kinds of scientific practices that David taught her. She expresses faith that she can, indeed, do both, offering hope that Daunis will be able to successfully navigate her identity as an Ojibwe woman with one white parent.
Then, Pauline asks if college is like a boarding school. Daunis asks why she asks, and Pauline describes how the government used to take kids, not give them back, and punish them for speaking Anishinaabemowin. Daunis is emotional. Art and Auntie clearly decided Pauline and Perry were ready for “the talk,” and she’s sad these bright girls now know about the trauma their community has suffered—and still suffers. But she’s also proud, because the girls are making the ancestors’ dreams come true. She explains that college isn’t like that kind of boarding school; she can study what she wants and leave if she doesn’t feel safe. Hugging the girls, Daunis says it’s good to know their history, even if it’s sad. The girls trill perfect lee-lees and run to get dressed.
Up until recently, Art and Auntie haven’t made Perry and Pauline learn about the terrible things the federal government has done to Native Americans throughout the country. Daunis knows, though, that knowing this history is important—forgetting it, after all, means it’s more likely to happen again in the future. Further, she knows that Perry and Pauline, as small kids, represent the Tribe’s future. They’ll be the ones to one day pass down this knowledge to other young people when they’re old and have become Elders.
Daunis puts on her red Jingle Dress, with the 365 cones that Daunis sewed on one per day for a year as Auntie taught her about being a strong Nish kwe. She puts on a leather belt from Gramma Pearl, a beaded bag from Auntie, and a velvet yoke beaded with yellow pansies. Finally, she adds Dad’s choker, blueberry earrings from Mom, the strawberry bracelet from Jamie, and GrandMary’s red lipstick. Auntie attaches an eagle feather to Daunis’s head. Daunis joins Perry and Pauline for pictures and thinks of the envelope she received recently, which contained two postcards and no return address. One postcard of a Minnesota lake said, “The kids are all right,” and the other, of University of Wisconsin, said, “Someday.”
Recall that a dancer’s regalia can tell a knowledgeable bystander about her family and her ancestors. Daunis’s regalia connects her to her Firekeeper relatives through Dad’s choker and Gramma Pearl’s belt, but it also speaks to her Fontaine family (with the lipstick) and to how the two families have blended (as with the blueberry earrings from Mom). Jamie also remains a part of Daunis’s past that she’d like to honor, and it seems possible he’ll also be part of her future. He’s clearly learning to think about the community when he tells her, finally, that the kids in Minnesota are okay.
Daunis dances simply as she enters for the Grand Entry. She leads Pauline, Perry, and Auntie through the honor beats. Late in the afternoon, the emcee calls for Jingle dancers with red dresses to dance and tells the Jingle Dress’s story. A sick girl’s father experienced a vision: a dress with jingly cones, which would heal the girl as she danced. The Jingle Dance, the emcee explains, represents healing, and the red dresses represent Anishinaabe women—specifically those who are murdered or missing. Seven girls and women, ranging from ages five to 50, enter the arena.
Here, the novel explicitly mentions the huge problem of Native women being murdered or kidnapped, and the lackluster (or totally lacking) government response to these crimes. Ron may have found one woman’s killer, but this doesn’t help the hundreds of other families who don’t yet have answers. Thus, Daunis and her community must turn to ceremonial activities like the Jingle Dance to find healing.
Daunis sees Mom smile. Mom knows now that letting Daunis go isn’t losing her. Daunis remembers Granny June telling her about boats made for oceans and rivers, and those that can go anywhere “because they always know the way home.” She recalls telling Seeney about the ethnobotany program after Seeney invited Daunis to be her apprentice. Daunis asked if she could study both ways, and Seeney said they’ve always adapted. Daunis studies her community and then dances and prays for Lily, Robin, Heather, herself, and all the girls who are seen as invisible and expendable. She introduces herself to Creator and asks them to keep her community strong and safe. She thanks Creator for her good life. When the song ends, Daunis is ready to start her next journey.
Finally, at the end of the novel, Daunis seems at peace. She and Mom have realized that Daunis leaving won’t make their relationship any less strong or meaningful, as Daunis will continue to come home to her family and her community. And Daunis sees it as her responsibility to dance and continue living her life as a Native American to honor girls like Lily, Robin, and Heather—by doing this, she can make sure that their stories won’t be forgotten, and life will improve for future generations of Native girls.