Firekeeper’s Daughter

Firekeeper’s Daughter


Angeline Boulley

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Firekeeper’s Daughter Summary

Eighteen-year-old Daunis feels like her world is falling apart. In April, her Uncle David died, and, six weeks later, her grandmother, GrandMary, suffered a stroke. Daunis’s Anishinaabe nokomis, Gramma Pearl, always told Daunis that bad things happen in threes. So, to prevent the third bad thing from happening and to make her emotionally fragile Mom happy, Daunis decides to stay in Sault Ste. Marie and attend Lake State University with her best friend, Lily.

When Daunis’s half-brother Levi, the captain of the Supes, the local junior A hockey team, asks Daunis to show new Supe Jamie around, Daunis finds herself falling for Jamie. Unfortunately, Jamie has a girlfriend out of state. Daunis shares local history with Jamie and tells him a bit about herself and her family: her dad was a local hockey star bound for glory, but he got Mom pregnant when Mom was 16. He had sex with, impregnated, and ultimately married Dana, Levi’s mom and the local tribal judge. Dad has been deceased for more than a decade. Daunis explains that she’s a descendant of the local Ojibwe tribe, but she’s not an enrolled member because Dad isn’t on her birth certificate. Jamie is Cherokee, but he didn’t grow up around family.

Daunis guides Jamie around the powwow that weekend. At the powwow, Lily’s ex-boyfriend Travis, who’s been cooking meth since Christmas and is clearly in rough shape, insists on speaking to Lily. Things come to a head at a party: Daunis watches Travis shoot Lily and then shoot himself. After watching Jamie’s cool response, she realizes—and Jamie confirms—that he’s an undercover federal agent here to investigate a meth cell.

Three days after Lily’s death, Jamie and Ron (who’s Jamie’s boss but is posing as his uncle and a high school science teacher) tell Daunis about their investigation. Uncle David died of a meth overdose, but he wasn’t an addict: he was the FBI’s confidential informant and was researching hallucinogenic mushrooms. The FBI began the investigation after kids in Minnesota used meth and experienced a group hallucination; the feds believe that the drug, meth-X, is being manufactured in the Sault by a Native person who is adding traditional medicines. Daunis agrees to take David’s place as the CI and to pose as Jamie’s girlfriend, which gives her cover to take a “romantic weekend” away with him—but in reality, they go to a federal drug lab and learn to make meth. They get home in time to attend Coach Bobby’s Labor Day barbeque, where a former classmate, Heather, offers Daunis various drugs. Daunis refuses.

Over the next week, Daunis struggles with starting college due to her grief over Lily and anger over seeing her ex-boyfriend, TJ. A former hockey teammate, Robin, gives Daunis a pep talk, and Daunis finds solace in driving Lily’s Granny June to the Elder Center for the Elder lunch and in canvassing nearby Duck Island for mushrooms. On Duck Island one day, Daunis discovers Heather’s body. Daunis also realizes that Uncle David, who kept detailed notebooks, must’ve kept one during his final months. If Daunis finds it she can figure out what exactly he was looking for, but if the notebook exists, it’s missing.

The Supes’ hockey season starts that weekend, and Daunis makes her debut as a hockey girlfriend. After the game, she and Ron meet Grant Edwards, goalie Mike’s dad. He invites Daunis and Ron to try out the fans’ Booster Bus, and he also invites them to the Sunday hockey dinner, ostensibly so Mike can help Daunis set up a new phone. Daunis wants to go to the dinner in part so she can search Grant’s home office; he’s a wealthy attorney and might be involved with the meth cell. However, Mike thinks Daunis is genuinely interested in him. He kisses her without consent and gets angry when she refuses his advances. She leans into Jamie for emotional support. Over the course of the evening, Daunis also shares with Ron and Jamie that a few years ago, Travis accidentally blinded a woman with a BB gun, and the community ostracized him after he fessed up.

Daunis shows up at the Elder Center on Friday to what seems like an intervention. Her Auntie Teddie has put together the paperwork for Daunis to apply for tribal enrollment—and 26 Elders give Daunis affidavits supporting her enrollment. That afternoon, Daunis and Ron take the Booster Bus to an away game. Ron reveals that he can tell that Jamie and Daunis are getting too emotionally invested in their pretend relationship, though when he’s not watching, Daunis continues to get close to Jamie. At the game the next night, Daunis is enraged when she discovers souvenir pucks with poorly printed dream catchers on them, which Grant donated to support Native kids. Later, the news spreads that Robin died of a meth overdose. Daunis encourages the Supes to honor her by organizing a benefit hockey game for her the same weekend as Shagala, the annual benefit dance for the Supes. Grant behaves disturbingly toward Daunis throughout the weekend.

When she gets home, Daunis runs into Robin’s mom, Mrs. Bailey, who shocks Daunis when she reveals that Robin wasn’t a student at Lake State—she was addicted to painkillers and then meth. Daunis spends the next day turning in her tribal enrollment paperwork. She runs into Stormy, another Supe, at the tribal enrollment office and offers to drive him to his parents’ house on Sugar Island so he can look for his passport so he can go with the Supes to see a game in Canada. She also agrees to lend Levi her debit card, which is connected to their shared account, so he can buy himself and his friends dinner. But when Daunis calls to check and make sure there’s enough money in the account, she’s shocked. She and Levi usually keep a couple hundred dollars in it, but there’s more than $10,000 in it now. When Daunis realizes that Levi is 18 and now gets $36,000 per year in per-cap payments, she convinces herself that he can’t be involved in the meth cell.

Daunis has been dreaming about Lily’s death for weeks now, and each time, she remembers more of that night. Now, she remembers that Travis had been talking about the “Little People” being angry with him—so she approaches Leonard Manitou, an Elder whom the Little People rescued when he was a child, to ask about the mythical beings. Leonard says the Little People sometimes get angry; they once yelled at his cousin for sniffing gas. That afternoon, she confronts Levi about the money in their account. He’s able to dispel her fears, invites her to invest in a business venture with him, and promises to look for Dad’s scarf, which Daunis would like for her birthday. Daunis tracks down Uncle David’s notebook and finds that he discovered mushrooms didn’t make meth-X so potent; he clearly didn’t intend for the FBI to get this information. Daunis realizes what meth-X really is: Travis added “love medicine” that he’d initially offered to Lily to the meth. The love medicine made it potent, and the Little People, which are real, scolded the kids in Minnesota—in other words, the kids weren’t hallucinating. She tells Jamie and Ron that the mushrooms are a dead end and turns over David’s notebook after tearing out the pages detailing his mushroom research.

That Friday is the benefit game for Robin, and it’s also Daunis’s 19th birthday. Daunis plays and gets injured, though she hides it until after she’s visited with friends and family afterwards—and after both Grant and Auntie share that Tribal Council voted to let Daunis enroll. After the game, Jamie drives Daunis to the ER, where she reveals that she’s not playing college hockey due to nerve damage from a surgery meant to correct a serious shoulder injury. They then go to a lakeside beach and have sex, though Daunis panics when Jamie tells her he loves her. Shagala is the following night. Daunis is having a great time, but then things take a turn for the worse. Ron says Jamie proposed getting close to Daunis to boost his career, TJ tells Daunis he broke up with her because Levi threatened him, and Grant rapes Daunis. After Daunis punches Jamie in the face, Ron drives her home. That night, Daunis dreams of Lily’s death again—and she remembers that before he shot himself, Travis admitted he didn’t actually shoot the BB gun years ago. Levi did.

The next morning, after checking the emailed bank statement from her and Levi’s shared account, Daunis discovers Levi is the meth cell’s mule: he’s been transferring money to an account in Panama in her name. She sneaks into Levi’s house and confirms her suspicions with the last year’s paper statements—and in her search, she also finds Dad’s scarf, which Levi has clearly been keeping from her. When Daunis gets home later, Mom reveals that Levi dropped off two boxes of birthday gifts in Daunis’s bedroom yesterday. One gift is a framed photo of her, Levi, and Dad. The second gift contains the smeary dream catcher hockey pucks, which are filled with meth.

Just as Ron texts Daunis to ask if she’s seen Jamie since last night, Dana knocks on the door and explains that she’s afraid Levi is in trouble. But this turns out to be a ruse: Dana drugs Daunis, and Daunis wakes up hours later with Jamie in a trailer on Sugar Island. Nobody knows where he is, as there’s no cell service here and his tracking device won’t work. Over the next few hours, Daunis discovers that Mike, not Levi, is in charge of the meth cell, and that Dana kidnapped David. Ultimately, Levi takes Daunis off of Sugar Island himself; the cell wants her to make meth for them. Several Elders notice Daunis looking afraid on the ferry and help Daunis escape. Believing she can trust him, Daunis asks Coach Bobby for help—but he reveals that he’s involved in the cell too and will hurt Mom if Daunis doesn’t cooperate. Daunis crashes his car and returns with the police to Sugar Island and Jamie. She nearly dies, as the car crash lacerated her liver.

Daunis wakes up in a hospital room. GrandMary has recently died. Over the next few days, Daunis discovers that Mike has disappeared and that the feds won’t press charges for her kidnapping or for Grant raping her. She also tells Jamie that he needs to figure out who he is before they can be in a healthy relationship.

Ten months later, at the following year’s powwow, Daunis reveals that Levi and Stormy are taking the fall for Mike’s crimes (Mike is still at large), and Coach Bobby is testifying against Levi. She’s received several postcards from Jamie, and she plans to attend the University of Hawaii to study ethnobotany while also apprenticing with Seeney Nimkee to learn traditional medicine. Granny June takes Daunis to a ceremony for Native sexual assault victims, and Daunis dances for the first time since David and Lily’s deaths. She’s ready for the next chapter of her life.