After June’s mother dies, she arrives on Marie’s doorstep with no possessions, save for the clothes on her back and a rosary around her neck, which symbolizes Marie’s connection to June as well as Marie’s modified approach to religion and the presence of Christianity in their Native lives and experiences. June’s rosary is evidence of white, European culture and the assimilation of Native Americans to that culture. Westward expansion and residential schools have brought Christianity to the Native Americans, and Erdrich implies this influence is impossible to avoid. Marie takes June’s rosary from her neck and places it in a lard can in her kitchen. While Marie doesn’t pray in a traditional way, she occasionally puts her hand into the lard can and touches the rosary, in a sort of “secret” prayer.
On the day that June tells Marie she would rather live with Eli, Marie tells her that she is welcome to go, but as she does, Marie reaches her hand into the lard can and touches the rosary. By touching the rosary, Marie offers up a silent prayer for June, whom Marie loves more than even her own children, to stay with her, but, of course, she doesn’t. Later, after Nector dies and Lipsha, June’s biological son, is beginning to discover his identity, Marie gives Lipsha June’s rosary, which she has quietly kept in the lard can for decades. In giving June’s rosary to Lipsha, Marie finally gives Lipsha his own connection to June, after lying to him for so long about his biological mother and her intentions in leaving him.