The Marrow Thieves


Cherie Dimaline

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The Marrow Thieves: The Fire Summary & Analysis

Five years later, Miig explains to his makeshift family that dreams live in their bone marrow. Seven-year-old RiRi asks how the dreams get there, and Miig says that they're born with the dreams in their DNA. He adds that "they" take the dreams from the marrow. Frenchie, who has become a part of this family group since running into Miig years before, examines his hand and imagines people taking Mitch's dreams at the residential school. Miig rolls a cigarette and elderly Minerva cups her hands to pull the smoke over her head in prayer.
Here, the novel sets up the idea that many people are losing the ability to dream, but the Indigenous population still has it—and this ability is something that can be harvested. This, coupled with the dehumanizing tactics with which the Recruiters took Mitch, suggests that to many, Indigenous people aren't actually people: they're a valuable commodity.
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Frenchie explains that Miig and Minerva are the only adults in the group. Chi-Boy is seventeen and from the Cree lands. Frenchie is sixteen, Métis, and wears his long hair in a braid. There are twelve-year-old twins, Tree and Zheegwon, who are covered in scars, and Slopper, a round nine-year-old. Wab is almost a woman at eighteen; she has a huge scar across her face. RiRi is seven, Métis, and still very much a kid. The children all long for "the old-timey," so they wear their hair in braids and construct ineffective sweat lodges. Miig says that it's time for Story. Slopper gets up and heads for his tent—the younger kids don't get to hear Story—but RiRi puts up a bit of a fuss before leaving the fire.
Frenchie uses "old-timey" to refer to a time when it wasn't dangerous to actually participate in the customs of one's culture. In the present, it's impossible for them to do so because that kind of pride and exposure puts them at risk of attracting attention from Recruiters. Because of this, the braids are one of the most effective ways that these kids can connect with their roots. It allows them to look Indigenous, which is still dangerous, but not to the same degree as doing things that extend beyond their bodies. Story, the narrative that traces how the world came to be in its current state, also allows Indigenous people to connect with their history.
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