Louise Erdrich

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Fleur Pillager

Fleur Pillager is a Native American woman who lives apart from the rest of her tribe on her family’s land on the coast of Lake Matchimanito. She is stubborn and self-sufficient, unwilling to compromise… read analysis of Fleur Pillager


Nanapush is an elder in the tribe, and has close ties to the trickster Nanabozho. He serves as one of the narrators in the book, and in his sections he addresses his adopted granddaughter Luluread analysis of Nanapush

Pauline Puyat

Pauline Puyat is a mixed-blood woman who is the other narrator of the book. She has also lost all of her family except her father. She rejects her father’s commitment to Native ways, and so… read analysis of Pauline Puyat

Margaret Kashpaw

Margaret Kashpaw is an older Native American woman who is devoted to her children, though we only meet two of them: Eli and Nector. She discourages Eli’s romantic interest in Fleur, but embraces… read analysis of Margaret Kashpaw

Eli Kashpaw

Eli Kashpaw is a young Native American man who believes in the old ways of life and seeks to woo and marry Fleur Pillager, who shares his values. He is less industrious than his… read analysis of Eli Kashpaw
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Lulu Nanapush

Lulu Nanapush is Fleur’s daughter. It is unclear who Lulu’s father is, but Eli serves as her father throughout the story, with Nanapush as a grandfather and Margaret as a grandmother. Nanapush’s sections of… read analysis of Lulu Nanapush

Bernadette Morrissey

Bernadette Morrissey is a mixed-blood mother of four children: Clarence, Sophie, Philomena, and Marie. She is a widow who works on a farm with her brother, Napoleon. She works both… read analysis of Bernadette Morrissey

Clarence Morrissey

Clarence Morrissey is the son of Bernadette and brother to Sophie. When the rumors spread that Eli has had sex with Sophie, he becomes angry and seeks revenge. He and Boy Lazarre seek to… read analysis of Clarence Morrissey

Sophie Morrissey Lazarre

Sophie Morrissey is Bernadette’s eldest daughter. She helps out at the Pillager cabin, and Pauline uses love medicine to cause Eli to seduce the young woman. She is punished for her behavior and sent… read analysis of Sophie Morrissey Lazarre

Boy Lazarre

Boy Lazarre is another young half-blood man. His family is known for being paid to spy, and Boy is the first to confirm that Eli and Fleur are romantically involved. After he witnesses their coupling… read analysis of Boy Lazarre

Lily Vedder

A man who works at the butcher shop in Argus, who gambles with Fleur and then attacks her for her consistent winnings. Lily has a small dog that seems both intimidated by and frightened by… read analysis of Lily Vedder

Dutch James

A man who works at the butcher shop in Argus, who gambles with Fleur and then attacks her for her consistent winnings. Dutch lives with Pauline’s Aunt Regina, and is the only one… read analysis of Dutch James

Moses Pillager

Fleur’s cousin, who goes “half-windigo” as a way of protecting himself from the consumption epidemic. He lives on an island in Matchimanito Lake and makes potions that tribes people trade him for… read analysis of Moses Pillager

Father Damien

The Catholic priest who attempts to help the tribes people navigate their relationships with the Agent. He is an understanding figure who tries to help the Nanapush, Kashpaws, and Pillagers understand the threats they… read analysis of Father Damien


The lake monster said to guard Matchimanito. He is feared by the villagers and assumed to be evil because of the way the lake has proven inhospitable to anyone but the Pillager family. Fleurread analysis of Misshepeshu
Minor Characters
Nector Kashpaw
Nector Kashpaw is Eli’s brother and Margaret’s son. Nector is more interested in the modern ways of white civilization than his more traditional brother. Nector helps Nanapush set up the snare to catch Clarence Morrissey after he attacked Margaret and Nanapush. Nector eventually goes away to school.
Napoleon Morrissey
Napoleon Morrissey is Bernadette’s brother. He lives with her family on a farm. He has a drinking problem and impregnates Pauline. He is later killed by Pauline, who hallucinates that he is the lake monster, but Fleur is blamed for his death instead.
Marie Morrissey
Marie Morrissey is the biological daughter of Pauline and Napoleon, but she is raised by Bernadette. Despite being named after the Virgin Mary, Pauline cannot see the child as holy.
Tor Grunewald
A man who works at the butcher shop in Argus, who gambles with Fleur and then attacks her for her consistent winnings. Tor dies in the storm soon after the attack on Fleur.
Pete Kozka
Pete owns the butcher shop where Fleur and Pauline work in Argus. He is a the most civilized of the men who work at the shop, and is away when Fleur is attacked. Though the shop is destroyed by the storm after Fleur’s attack, his lodgings remain unharmed.
Fritzie Kozka
Pete’s female companion, who also works at the butcher shop. Fritzie is charitable to Fleur, providing her secret lodging in the unused smokehouse and giving her the umbrella.
Regina Puyat
Rusell’s mother and Pauline Puyat’s aunt, who takes her in when Pauline refuses to live with her father on the reservation. Regina lives with the butcher shop worker Dutch James, and nurses him back to health after the storm that kills the other workers.
Russell Puyat
Russell is Regina’s son and Pauline’s young cousin. He spies on the butcher shop workers with Pauline and attempts to convince Dutch not to harm Fleur.
The government representative with whom the Native Americans work to attain their rations and to pay their taxes. The Agent is a nameless, faceless figure who represents the interactions with white men that are necessary even for those most closely tied to native ways.
Sister Saint Anne
Pauline’s superior at the convent who discourages Pauline’s unusual ways of humiliating herself as offering to God.
Philomena Morrissey
Bernadette's younger daughter.