Joe is a thirteen-year-old Chippewa boy living on a reservation in Minnesota. The novel's narrator and protagonist, he is the son of Bazil and Geraldine Coutts. Throughout the novel, the reader observes as Joe… (read full character analysis)
Cappy is a thirteen-year-old Chippewa boy and Joe's best friend. After Cappy’s mother’s death, he and his brother Randall were raised by their father Doe Lafournais. Cappy is handsome, charming, and an extremely… (read full character analysis)
Mooshum (which is the word in Anishinaabe for “grandfather”) is Joe's grandfather, who lives with Joe’s aunt and uncle Clemence and Edward in their house. Although Mooshum is quite elderly, he still enjoys some… (read full character analysis)
Geraldine is a Chippewa woman whose brutal rape catalyzes the events of the novel. Joe's mother and Bazil's wife, Geraldine is a tribal record keeper who is widely considered to be smart, beautiful… (read full character analysis)
Randall Lafournais is Cappy’s older brother and Doe Lafournais’s oldest son. Randall is interested in traditional Chippewa medicine and culture, making regular trips to meditate in the sweat lodge he built in his… (read full character analysis)
Linden Lark is a local white man who rapes Geraldine at the book's beginning. Linden, who is the son of Grace and George Lark and is Linda Lark's twin biological brother, is a disturbed… (read full character analysis)
Linda Lark is a white woman and expert banana bread baker who works in the reservation post office. Linda was raised by Betty Wishkob in her Chippewa family after Grace and George Lark, Linda's… (read full character analysis)
Sonja is Whitey’s long-time partner (who many people believe is his wife). A former stripper, Sonja now works at the counter of Whitey’s gas station. Sonja loves Joe and cares for him when he… (read full character analysis)
Doe is Cappy and Randall's father. Doe works as the janitor at the tribal offices, he intermittently serves as the tribal chairman, and he MCs for the annual summer powwow. Doe's house is frequently… (read full character analysis)
Grace Lark is Linda and Linden's mother, a white woman who used to own a gas station near the reservation. Grace and her husband George were once convicted of trying to swindle older and… (read full character analysis)
George Lark was a white man who once owned a gas station near the reservation. He was Grace’s husband, Linden’s father, and Linda’s biological father. George, like his wife and son, was… (read full character analysis)
Zack is a close friend of Joe's, and he, Cappy, Angus, and Joe hang out together almost every day, riding bikes, drinking beer, and talking about sex. Zack’s parents are divorced and… (read full character analysis)
Angus is one of Joe's close friends from childhood, and Angus goes with Joe, Zack, and Cappy on many of their adventures throughout the book. Angus’s family is very poor and they live… (read full character analysis)
Zelia is a Mexican-American girl and devout Catholic whom Cappy meets while she is on a summer mission trip to the reservation. Zelia is extremely beautiful and she and Cappy fall in love after Cappy… (read full character analysis)
Curtis Yeltow is the governor of South Dakota (in the world of the novel). He is well known for giving lip service to his commitment to Native causes, which he hypocritically pairs with policy that… (read full character analysis)
Clemence is Joe’s aunt. A devout Catholic, Clemence has two adult children of her own with her husband Edward. Clemence and Edward live down the road from Bazil and Geraldine. After Geraldine’s rape… (read full character analysis)
Whitey is Joe’s uncle and the owner of the reservation’s gas station. Whitey lives with Sonja, an ex-stripper who most people think is his wife even though they are not married. Whitey gives… (read full character analysis)
Father Travis is the head of the reservation’s parish. He is known as an edgy priest—a former Marine who likes to shoot prairie dogs in his spare time. Father Travis curses liberally and tries to… (read full character analysis)
Mayla Wolfskin is a beautiful young Native woman who Linden Lark murders. Mayla, who started a job in the South Dakota governor’s office as a high schooler, has an illicit affair with governor Curtis Yeltow… (read full character analysis)
Betty Wishkob is Linda’s adoptive mother, who decided to take Linda home after Grace and George Lark abandoned her because of her birth defect. Betty was a loving and patient mother who worked hard… (read full character analysis)
Bugger Pourier is an alcoholic drifter who has returned to the reservation at the book’s beginning in order to spend time with his dying mother. After his mother passes away, Bugger hangs around the reservation… (read full character analysis)
Akii, a character in the story Mooshum tells while asleep, is Nanapush’s mother and Mirage’s wife. Akii is very smart and she can read dreams, using them to help her husband hunt. When… (read full character analysis)
Mirage is Akii’s husband and Nanapush’s father in Mooshum’s story about the buffalo mother. Mirage is a good hunter, but he is not a very good husband, as he cheats on Akii and… (read full character analysis)
Edward is Clemence’s husband and Joe’s uncle. Edward helps Bazil cope with the stress of his wife’s trauma and supports Bazil in his attempts to deliver justice for the crime, particularly by helping him parse the evidence.
Dr. Egge is Geraldine’s doctor in the emergency room where she is treated after her rape.
Vince Madwesin is the tribal policeman who helps investigate Geraldine’s case. He interviews Geraldine and her family several times. Vince Madwesin is also Zack’s stepfather.
Mrs. Bijiu is Grandma Ignatia Thunder’s friend who comes over while Joe, Angus, Cappy, and Zack are eating at her house. The older women make raunchy sex jokes, horrifying the boys.
Soren Bjerke is the Swedish FBI agent who is assigned to Geraldine’s case. For Joe, Bjerke’s presence on the reservation represents the reservation’s lack of sovereignty, since, if the Chippewa people had total autonomy, they would have their own investigators.
Larose is Geraldine’s close friend from childhood and a relative of Mayla Wolfskin. Larose and Geraldine were inseparable as girls. Joe learns a little about Mayla’s background from Larose when she stops by Whitey’s gas station while he is working.
Neal is Zelia’s friend at the church youth group who tries to kick Cappy, Joe, Angus, and Zack off the beach, and who then has a seizure when Cappy dunks him underwater.
Opichi is Bazil’s secretary. She is a gossip who always knows everything going on at the reservation, so she is an invaluable resource for Bazil.
Suzette and Josey
Suzette and Josey are Cappy and Randall’s relatives who camp with them at the annual summer powwow. Suzette and Josey cook for the boys all weekend. They are skilled dancers and they enjoy their heavy, ornate regalia.
Grandma Ignatia Thunder
Grandma Ignatia Thunder is Zack’s grandmother, an older Chippewa woman living on the reservation. Grandma Thunder feeds Zack and his friends when they come to her house, and she is well versed in Chippewa medicine. She is often lewd and talks about sex explicitly and raunchily.
Aunt Star is Angus’s aunt and the head of his household.
Sheryl is Linda’s adoptive sister and friend. Although Sheryl and Linda did not always get along as children, as adults they are very close, and Sheryl does everything she can to help Linda.
Joseph and Evey
Joseph and Evey are Clemence and Edward’s adult children and Joe’s cousins.
Pearl is Sonja’s watchdog that she gives to Joe, Bazil, and Geraldine after Geraldine’s attack. At first Joe is disappointed, having wanted a dog that would play fetch, but he slowly warms up to Pearl, who is loyal and loving.