Water appears throughout “Indian Camp” as a medium that separates Nick’s family from the native people who live in the shantytown. Nick, Nick’s father, and Uncle George must cross a lake to arrive at the camp and return from it. This trip evokes the transatlantic voyages chartered by Europeans to the Americas in which white settlers came into contact with native peoples for the first time. This miniaturization of the original voyage encourages the reader to interpret this story as an allegory for the European settlement of the Americas, highlighting the racial and cultural divides that form the subtext of the story. Moreover, within the shanty, water also becomes an index of cultural differences between the Native Americans and the Adamses. When Nick’s Father takes over the birthing process, he finds the hygienic conditions in the shanty unsuitable, and orders water to be boiled so he can sanitize his tools to his medical standards. Thus, throughout the story, water highlights the differences (and distances) between Native American communities and white American society more broadly.
Water Quotes in Indian Camp
“Those must boil,” he said, and began to scrub his hands in the basin of hot water with a cake of soap he had brought from the camp. Nick watched his father’s hand scrubbing each other with the soap. While his father washed his hands very carefully and thoroughly, he talked.