Tracks

Tracks Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Nanapush hears wildlife rushing toward Fleur’s cabin, and soon after finds the cause to be the lumberjacks cutting down the homes of the animals. Fleur emerges, ready to fight for her land, but Nanapush tells her to let him figure out what’s going on first. No one will tell Nanapush the cause of the lumbering, but when he reaches the Agent’s office, he explains that the reason the land had been sold was because an offer had come in and the government must sell land on which the taxes are unpaid. Nanapush is confused, saying he watched the fees taken to town, but the Agent tells him that Nector and Margaret paid off only the Kashpaw allotment, not the Pillager land, because there was a late fee in addition to the taxes owed.
The lumberjacks cutting down the trees forces the animals and the spirits into smaller and smaller clusters of forest. Fleur is ready to battle in the old Anishinabe way, but Nanapush believes there must be a logical explanation to discover first. The betrayal of Nector and Margaret in saving only their own land and not informing Fleur of their decision was an act of dishonesty that prioritized the maintenance of their property over the values of the tribe and their community—reflecting an individualism that resembles white civilization’s values more than those of the Anishinabe.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
The Agent explains that the lumber company has started its operation on the far side of the lake so that the residents will have time to vacate. Nanapush accuses the Agent of pocketing much of the cost paid for the land, and he’s asked to leave the office.
The Agent tries to frame the situation in a diplomatic way, but Nanapush distrusts him (and for good reason). Nanapush believes that the Agent must also have a personal stake in the situation.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
On his way back to Matchimanito, Nanapush considers the deep scars in the land from the lumbering company. He sees the road back to the cabin as being the road of the dead for the trees, and for all that live beneath the trees. He knows that Nector had listened carefully to his advice, and acted with foresight and shrewdness, qualities that will benefit him if he takes on the life of a politician. Nanapush loses himself in his thoughts as he approaches the untouched wilderness surrounding Fleur’s cabin. Lulu approaches him, looking for candies, but finds none. She leads him to Fleur.
The path that Fleur and Pauline once followed to the land of the dead is now viewed in the same way by Nanapush, though reframed around nature rather than just humanity. Though Nanapush had been reluctant to become involved in bureaucracy, he could always see that Nector had a talent for it, and he realizes now that he could have been more careful with the information he shared with Nector, since the young man put it all to use in protecting his family land at the expense of others.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
Nanapush realizes that Eli must already know the truth, but shares what he’s learned anyway. Nanapush then says that, after this, the three never lived together again. It is revealed that Lulu won’t visit Fleur now, because she’s angry her mother sent her away. When Nanapush finishes telling Fleur about the sale of her land, a man’s cry is heard across the lake, followed by the snap and crash of a tree falling. Fleur doesn’t respond.
This section reveals some of aftermath of this moment. Eli having kept the safety of his family’s land a secret from Fleur is an unforgivable offense in her eyes. Lulu getting sent to a government school caused her to reject her mother, showing a stubborn streak in Lulu that is similar to Fleur herself.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
Get the entire Tracks LitChart as a printable PDF.
Tracks.pdf.medium
Eli suggests that Fleur could live on the Kashpaw land if she will marry him. She remains silent, purposefully sorting stones, putting them into the pockets of her skirt, and Lulu helps her. Eli promises to earn money to buy some of her land back, but begs Fleur not to blame Nector. Fleur chooses a flat boulder and walks into the lake holding it.
Eli, in an echo of his earlier transgression with Sophie Morrissey, attempts to atone with Fleur, but Fleur does not forgive so easily. Even if Eli buys back her land, it will be different than it is now because all the trees will be torn down. Fleur chooses the stones to seemingly sink herself to the bottom of the lake so she can consult with the lake monster, though this action could also be interpreted as a suicide attempt.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
Birth, Death, and Survival Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
Eli dives in after her to try to save her, but Fleur struggles against him. Eli drags her back to land, unconscious. Nanapush tells Lulu to go fetch blankets, and announces that this is the third time Fleur has drowned. Eli and Nanapush revive her, but Nanapush steps away when she opens her eyes, to avoid responsibility for bringing her back to life. They feel the ground beneath them shake, and know it is the lake monster causing it. Fleur cries that Nector will take her place as a curse. Fleur remains on the ground, facing west and keeping her eyes on Eli, and she shines her wolfish grin on him. He runs away from her to the lumber camp, where he takes work in the hopes of earning money to buy back Fleur’s land.
Eli manages to save Fleur, though those who have saved Fleur from drowning in the past have been punished, seemingly for not allowing the lake monster to have her. When the ground shakes, this is an indication that Misshepeshu has again been robbed. Fleur transfers the curse of the lake monster to Nector, because he is the one who allowed her land to be sold. Fleur facing west indicates that she was close to death, and is communing with spirits that still remain in the little bit of forest left. Her wolfish expression has not previously been turned on Eli, but it scares him in the same way it has scared others.
Themes
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
Birth, Death, and Survival Theme Icon
Nanapush wraps Fleur in the blanket, telling her to close her eyes, and she falls asleep. They remain on the shore while the lumber wagons retreat, and Nanapush asks Fleur if she will curse him next. Fleur says she will not, but that she will curse the lumber bankers, officials, and Morrisseys. Nanapush and Fleur are quiet for a long time, until Lulu says something silly in her sleep, and the two of them laugh together. Margaret arrives, and Fleur tells Nanapush to go to her. Fleur says that Margaret has saved her life twice and taken it twice, so now all debts are even. Fleur tells Nanapush she still owes him as her father, so she won’t harm Margaret for his sake, but that she will never go to Kashpaw land.
Nanapush again cares for Fleur, and she is comforted by his presence, promising that she will not harm him—and even that she won’t harm Margaret, who has betrayed her. Though the logical place for Fleur to go is Kashpaw land—since that is where the (presumed) father of her children lives, and where the man who is closest to a father to her will live—she cannot bear to leave her own land for that of the Kashpaws who cheated her.
Themes
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Nanapush moves to Margaret’s house, but he is never able to believe the best of her again or to love her as fully, after she saved only the Kashpaw land. Nanapush continues to visit Matchimanito in the following weeks, and is there when the surveyors find Napoleon’s body. Napoleon is surrounded by natural objects that Nanapush assumes Fleur put there, but she doesn’t even get a chance to defend herself. The Morrisseys and Lazarres have already spread the rumor that Fleur drowned Napoleon and stole his tongue, allowing her to walk without leaving tracks. The ghost of Napoleon supposedly returns to speak to Clarence and accuses Fleur, proof to Clarence of what happened.
Nanapush agrees to live with Margaret, a topic they’ve regularly argued over, because he now has no other option. Though he has embraced her dominance in many areas, he did not give in on this until he had to. Because we know that Pauline killed Napoleon, if there are natural objects around his body, it perhaps means that Fleur was making offerings trying to protect his body, the opposite of what the people assume of her. The people believe Clarence’s dream without even asking Fleur for her side of the story.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Birth, Death, and Survival Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
Moses says that the spirit of the lost Pillager baby had been watching over the land, and that Napoleon had wandered under the umbrella’s shadow. The tribe’s policeman demands an investigation into Napoleon’s death, and begins spying on the tribe members to try and overhear what happened.
Here the umbrella is given a spiritual power to protect the Pillagers, and a spell is assigned that previously we hadn’t heard about, so it’s unclear whether this might be true or something that Moses made up. The policeman’s belief that he can solve the case via an “investigation” is an example of white civilization believing it knows better than the Natives.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Birth, Death, and Survival Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
One day Nanapush goes into the confessional to play a trick on the policeman. The priest is suspicious, but Nanapush goes on to say that the keeper of the law in the village, since returning from Paris, sometimes masturbates in the grass thinking of a certain street. The priest assigns him a punishment for divulging this information, and tells Nanapush he can’t talk for the rest of the afternoon. Nanapush complies until sundown, when he begins talking nonstop.
Nanapush attempts to punish the policeman’s snooping by making up lies about him and telling Father Damien, who knows the game that’s being played. Nanapush follows the request of the priest, but then he reverts to his own ways as soon as possible, talking a lot to make up for his time in silence.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
The lumber companies continue to harvest the trees, and many of their workers die in unusual accidents, but this doesn’t deter them. Fleur seems to be flourishing in the woods despite the approaching threats, and Nanapush wonders if she is still in her right mind, trailed now by cats the way Moses is on his island.
Though the lumber industry is a dangerous one, the accidents that befall the workers are blamed on Fleur and her anger over the woods being torn down. Fleur has connected even more with nature, as the cats that have flocked to Moses are now following her as well.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
Nanapush tells Lulu that Fleur sent her away because she could not protect Lulu from all these threats, including herself. After sending Lulu off to the government school, Fleur returns to Matchimanito to live alone. Margaret spends her time gathering berries and making preserves for Nector, who she fears will suffer the effects of Fleur’s curse at any moment.
We are reminded that Nanapush is telling all of this information to Lulu, partly to reframe the story as an explanation of why Lulu was sent away to boarding school. While Nanapush agreed to live on Kashpaw land, Fleur held to her promise and remained in her cabin as long as she was able, living alone.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Nanapush goes to visit Fleur, walking around the lake the long way, despite the threatening weather. As he approaches her cabin, he hears the hum of many voices, both animal and human spirit. He sees all of his past relatives—his wives, his children, and his father, who obscures the trail of the other spirits. He sees his mother and sister and his first love. Nanapush knows that Fleur has resisted the call of these ghosts and so he does, too.
The spirits that once lived in the west woods are now quite concentrated in the last stand of trees left. Nanapush, who has compared his own strength to that of the trees, feels the call of his family from the afterlife all the more strongly now, as the trees dwindle and he advances in age. He looks to Fleur as a model, though, and refuses to give up his life just yet.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
Birth, Death, and Survival Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The weather gets very still as Nanapush sees Fleur standing in the door of her cabin, and he knows Moses is also nearby. With the lumberjacks close behind, Eli among them, Eli tries to talk Fleur into evacuating her house so they can cut down the last of the trees. He says they have a wagon waiting for her, and he’ll pack it himself.
Though Eli is working for the lumber company to try and earn the money to buy back the Pillager land, he is the one who needs to tell Fleur it’s time to leave her cabin for good. Eli is forced by the lumberjacks, who fear Fleur and her power, to be the spokesperson on their behalf, and thus Eli transforms into a symbol of the threat to the tribe and nature, rather than a protector of it.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
Birth, Death, and Survival Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
Nanapush hears the wind building and the voices of the dead gamblers from Argus in the woods. Nanapush warns the lumberjacks to go, but they hold their positions. Then a tree crashes down, out of sight. Another tree topples, and Fleur grins at the nervous men. One man tries to escape, but a tree bars his path. Several others climb into their wagons, but more trees fall, trapping them in place. Nanapush realizes all the trees have been sawed through at the base.
As the powers of nature gather to support Fleur in her effort, the wind begins to finish the job we’re assumed Fleur has started. It is revealed that all of the trees have been sawed through at the base, and the way they fall in such an uncontrolled cacophony is a danger to the men, who want to run from Fleur’s power but are trapped in proximity to it.
Themes
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
Birth, Death, and Survival Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
The wind picks up and knocks down all the trees. Then Fleur wheels out a cart from behind her cabin. The cart contains her weed-wrapped stones from the lake, roots, rags, her umbrella, and the grave markers of her ancestors. She and Nanapush leave quickly. Fleur asks Nanapush for his blessing to go off at the fork in the road, and he gives it to her reluctantly, asking her to stay. Fleur heads south, toward civilization.
Fleur has taken on the destruction of the last bit of her land as a way of proving her ownership over it. There is no logical way she might have sawed through the base of all of those trees just enough to leave them standing until the lumber company arrived. Fleur also reveals that she has already packed a wagon for herself, and that she has a plan for her future that is separate from the people she has counted on up until now, taking only the most symbolic and powerful objects with her.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
Birth, Death, and Survival Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
After this, Margaret and Nanapush attempt to get Lulu back from the government school. Nector goes to Oklahoma. In their attempts to battle the government over Lulu, Nanapush sees that they are now a tribe of paper, trees pressed into the service of the government. Nanapush becomes a bureaucrat so he can better fight to get Lulu back. Margaret and Nanapush go to Lulu’s school to retrieve her in 1924. Lulu is changed from her time, but she still has the angry grin that matches Fleur’s. Lulu runs to them, and they brace themselves like trees in the wind.
Nector, who has always been more connected to white civilization, departs as expected. Nanapush finally involves himself in government when he realizes he must compromise with white civilization if he is going to get back the one thing he truly cares about: his granddaughter. Though Lulu is now more heavily influenced by white culture, Fleur’s intimidating grin on her face proves that Lulu is still tied to her roots and has her mother’s independence and mysterious power. Once again, the metaphor of the elders Nanapush and Margaret being like the trees of the forest is mentioned—but this time, they hold strong.
Themes
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
Birth, Death, and Survival Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
Related Quotes