Lily Quotes in Firekeeper’s Daughter
Auntie overheard us talking and sat us down. She talked about the boarding school that Granny June’s daughters had been scooped up and taken to. Years spent marching like soldiers and training to be household domestics. They had the Anishinaabemowin and cultural teachings beaten out of them. When they came back to Sugar Island, one of the girls had scarred palms that looked like melted plastic, and she ran into the woods at the sound of a kettle whistle. Her sister was afraid of men and had to sleep with her back against the wall. Auntie had told us, When you criticize Maggie, just remember she was raised by one of those sisters, the one who didn’t kill herself.
“Your kiden needed protection from bad dreams?” I raise an eyebrow.
She laughs while zipping her jeans. “Dream catchers are sexy.”
When Lily and I were on Tribal Youth Council, we all played a game called Bigotry Bingo. When we heard a comment that fed into stereotypes, we’d call it out. Dream catchers were the free space. Too easy. There were so many others, though.
You don’t look Native.
Must be nice to get free college.
Can you give me an Indian name for my dog?
Maybe-Megan’s tattoo would have been good for another square: Native Americans as a sexual fetish. The more she talks, the more squares I mark […].
“I’m honoring Indians,” she says in response to my lingering scowl.
“Plus, I’m part Indian, so it’s okay.”
“My great-grandma was an Indian princess.”
Lily, we have a winner!
Each tribe has the sovereign right to determine who is a member. My best friend couldn’t get enrolled because of the way the Sugar Island Ojibwe Tribe’s enrollment office calculated Indian blood quantum: fractions of Indian blood based on lineage. Granny June’s first husband was from a First Nations band in Canada, so Lily’s pedigree didn’t meet the standard. Too many ancestors from across the river, not the right kind of Indian blood. Granny filed an appeal with Tribal Council, telling them, No one told me I wasn’t supposed to snag on that side of the river. We were here before that border existed. Every one of yous got cousins over there. But Council rejected her appeal for Lily’s membership application.
When Lily told Travis that she was done for good, he pulled out a gun. Love is not control. If he had truly loved Lily, he would have wanted her to have a good life. Even if it wasn’t with him. Instead, he did the opposite of love. Travis steadied the gun in his hand and thought only of himself.
Somehow, Travis had come across a love medicine. The kind of bad medicine that Auntie warned me against asking too much about.
When Lily refused to try the love medicine, Travis must have added it to a batch of meth […]. What he thought was a love medicine was actually the opposite of love. Real love honors your spirit. If you need a medicine to create or keep it, that’s possession and control. Not love.
A couple of weeks later, on a rez in Minnesota, a group of kids tried it […]. Every single one got sick. Not lovesick for some girl they’d never met, but infected with an insatiable desire for more meth.
I can do my part to protect our medicines, while trusting that there are those in the community who are doing their part to preserve and protect many different medicine teachings.
“I’m not just some emotional entanglement,” I say. “Jamie and I can handle being part of the investigation and having something that’s not so neatly defined.”
Ron shakes his head. He’s frustrated, I think, but what else can he say about it?
“Daunis, you do get that there is no actual Jamie Johnson, right? There is just a rookie officer who will do anything it takes to redeem himself after his first UC assignment went to hell. Including using you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Jamie was the one who proposed that he get close to you.”
Nibwaakaawin. Auntie told me the translation, breaking down each part of the word so it made perfect sense: To be wise is to live with an abundance of sight.
My whole life I’ve wanted to be like my aunt. The way a person dreams about being a ballerina, but not of broken toes and years of practice. I wanted to be a strong and wise Nish kwe, never considering how that abundance of sight would be earned.
I wanted to find out who was involved in the meth madness that took Lily and Uncle David. Robin and Heather, too. And the kids in Minnesota who got so sick from meth-X.
The person I was searching for this whole time was Levi.
Wisdom is not bestowed. In its raw state, it is the heartbreak of knowing things you wish you didn’t.
I thought I had no resources on the ferry, except for one lone Elder. But one led to another, and another. A resource I never anticipated during my time of dire need.
I’m reminded that our Elders are our greatest resource, embodying our culture and community. Their stories connect us to our language medicines, land, clans, songs, and traditions. They are a bridge between the Before and the Now, guiding those of us who will carry on in the Future.
We honor our heritage and our people, those who are alive and those who’ve passed on. That’s important because it keeps the ones we lose with us. My grandparents. Uncle David. Lily. Dad.
As my aunt tells the story, a large basket is passed around the inner circle. I take a yellow pansy and pass the basket to Auntie. I watch as women approach the fire, each one offering a pansy.
As I release the pansy, I think about what Grant Edwards did to me and say my silent prayer. There is comfort in watching the smoke rise to the full moon.
When I return to my seat, Granny June holds my hand.
“Liliban was thankful each year that you weren’t here,” she says.
“Wait. She was here?” My heart breaks.
“Yes, my girl. Ever since she came to live with me.”
I cry for my best friend and the secrets she wanted to protect me from.