Tracks

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 Lulu, explaining to her why her mother (Fleur) has sent her away to school and warning her away from marrying into the Morrissey or Lazarre families. Nanapush sees Fleur as his daughter because they have both lost their families. Nanapush is also pressured to sell his land, but he wants to keep it. Nanapush was educated in the Catholic School, where he learned to read, a rarity in the people on the reservation. He remains tied to the ancient rituals by calling on his helpers and beating his drum, but he also attends Catholic mass to please his companion Margaret. After Lulu is born, Nanapush and Margaret move in with Fleur and Eli to help, and they form a kind of a family unit. Nanapush is also betrayed by Margaret, forcing him to lose his land. Nanapush is a source of wisdom for many characters in the book, and he provides vital history of the tribe to Lulu and the reader. He teaches Eli how to hunt and satisfy Fleur romantically. He is proud of his heritage, but recognizes when he must work with the government to continue thriving.

Nanapush Quotes in Tracks

The Tracks quotes below are all either spoken by Nanapush or refer to Nanapush. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of Tracks published in 2011.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Within us, like ice shards, their names bobbed and shifted. Then the slivers of ice began to collect and cover us. We became so heavy, weighted down with the lead, gray frost, that we could not move. Our hands lay on the table like cloudy blocks. The blood with us grew thick. We needed no food. And little warmth. Days passed, weeks and we didn’t leave the cabin for fear we’d crack our cold fragile bodies. We had gone half windigo. I learned later that this was common, that there were many of our people who died in this manner, of the invisible sickness. There were those who could not swallow another bite of food. Because the names of their dead anchored their tongues. There were those who let their blood stop, who took the road west after all.

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker), Fleur Pillager
Page Number: 6
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Chapter 3 Quotes

Land is the only thing that lasts life to life. Money burns like tinder, flows off like water. And as for government promises, the wind is steadier.

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker)
Page Number: 33
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Talk is an old man’s last vice. I opened my mouth and wore out the boy’s ears, but that is not my fault. I shouldn’t have been caused to live so long, shown so much death, had to squeeze so many stories in the corners of my brain. They’re all attached, and once I start there is no end to telling because they’re hooked from one side to the other, mouth to tail.

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker)
Page Number: 46
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The thing I’ve found about women is that you must use every instinct to confuse. “Look here,” I told Eli before he went out my door, “it’s like you’re a log in a stream. Along comes this bear. She jumps on. Don’t let her dig in her claws.” So keeping Fleur off balance was what I presumed Eli was doing.

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker), Fleur Pillager, Eli Kashpaw
Related Symbols: Bears
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:
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It didn’t occur to me till later to wonder if it didn’t go both ways, though, if Fleur had wound her private hairs around the buttons of Eli’s shirt, if she had stirred smoky powders or crushed snakeroot into his tea. Perhaps she had bitten his nails in her sleep, swallowed the ends, snipped threads from his clothing and made a doll to wear between her legs.

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker), Fleur Pillager, Eli Kashpaw
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
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I am a man so I don’t know exactly what happened when the bear came into the birth house, but they talk among themselves, the women, and sometimes they forget I’m listening. So I know that when Fleur saw the bear in the house she was filled with such fear and power that she raised herself on the mound of blankets and gave birth. Then Pauline took down the gun and shot point-blank, filling the bear’s heart. She says so anyway. But she says that the lead only gave the bear strength, and I’ll support that. For I heard the gun go off and then saw the creature whirl and roar from the house. It barreled past me, crashed through the brush into the woods, and was not seen after. It left no trail either, so it could have been a spirit bear. I don’t know.

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker), Fleur Pillager, Pauline Puyat
Related Symbols: Bears, Tracks/Trails
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 5 Quotes

“It’s like this. You’ve got to start all over. The first time you pursued Fleur you had to make her think you were a knowledgeable, capable man, but now it is the opposite. She has to pity you as I do, only more. You have to cut yourself down in her eyes until you’re nothing, a dog, so low it won’t matter if she lets you crawl back.”

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker), Eli Kashpaw
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:
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I didn’t understand until Lazarre slouched and Clarence stood before Margaret, that this had to do with everything. The land purchase. Politics. Eli and Sophie. It was like seeing an ugly design of bruises come clear for a moment and reconstructing the evil blows that made them. Clarence would take revenge for Eli’s treatment of his sister by treating Eli’s mother in similar fashion.

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker), Margaret Kashpaw, Clarence Morrissey, Boy Lazarre
Page Number: 113
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“I’ll take my twenty-two,” he said. I told him that was too much of a store-bought revenge to satisfy an oldtime Anishinabe warrior, a man, which he would become when this business was finished. We’d find a method.

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker), Nector Kashpaw
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 6 Quotes

As a young man, he had guided a buffalo expedition for whites. He said the animals understood what was happening, how they were dwindling. He said that when the smoke cleared and hulks lay scattered everywhere, a day’s worth of shooting for only the tongues and the hides, the beasts that survived grew strange and unusual. They lost their minds. They bucked, screamed and stamped, tossed the carcasses and grazed on flesh. They tried their best to cripple one another, to fall or die. They tried suicide. They tried to do away with their young. They knew they were going, saw their end.

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Nanapush
Page Number: 139
Explanation and Analysis:
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He also wanted to see my hairshirt, insisted on it no matter how many times I denied I wore one. But at last, in a distracted moment, I confessed that I had made a set of underwear from potato sacks, and when I wore it the chafing reminded me of Christ’s sacrifice. This delighted him, encouraged him. He was curious to know how the undergarments were sewed, if I had to take them off to perform the low functions. He suggested after mock-serious thought that I might secretly enjoy the scratch of the rough material against my thighs.

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Nanapush
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 7 Quotes

Power dies, power goes under and gutters out, ungraspable. It is momentary, quick of flight and liable to deceive. As soon as you rely on the possession it is gone. Forget that it ever existed, and it returns. I never made the mistake of thinking that I owned my strength, that was my secret. And so I never was alone in my failures. I was never to blame entirely when all was lost, when my desperate cures had no effect on the suffering of those I loved. For who can blame a man waiting, the doors open, the windows open, food offered, arms stretched wide? Who can blame him if the visitor does not arrive?

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker)
Page Number: 177
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I mixed and crushed the ingredients. The paste must be rubbed on the hands a certain way, then up to the elbows, with exact words said. When I first dreamed the method of doing this, I got rude laughter. I got jokes about little boys playing with fire. But the person who visited my dream told me what plants to spread so that I could plunge my arms into a boiling stew kettle, pull meat from the bottom, or reach into the body itself and remove, as I did so long ago with Moses, the name that burned, the sickness.

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker), Moses Pillager
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 9 Quotes

“Go to her. She saved my life twice and now she’s taken it twice back, so there are no more debts. But you, whom I consider my father, I still owe. I will not harm your wife. But I never will go to Kashpaw land.”

Related Characters: Fleur Pillager (speaker), Nanapush, Margaret Kashpaw
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:
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She sent you to the government school, it is true, but you must understand there were reasons: there would be no place for you, no safety on this reservation, no hiding from government papers, or from Morrisseys who shaved heads or the Turcot Company, leveler of the whole forest. There was also no predicting what would happen to Fleur herself. So you were sent away, another piece cut from my heart.

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker), Fleur Pillager, Lulu Nanapush
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:
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The moment I entered, I heard the hum of a thousand conversations. Not only the birds and small animals, but the spirits in the western stands had been forced together. The shadows of the trees were crowded with their forms. The twigs spun independently of wind, vibrating like small voices. I stopped, stood among these trees whose flesh was so much older than ours, and it was then that my relatives and friends took final leave, abandoned me to the living.

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker)
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:
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Margaret and Father Damien begged and threatened the government, but once the bureaucrats sink their barbed pens into the lives of Indians, the paper starts flying, a blizzard of legal forms, a waste of ink by the gallon, a correspondence to which there is no end or reason. That’s when I began to see what we were becoming, and the years have borne me out: a tribe of file cabinets and triplicates, a tribe of single-space documents, directives, policy. A tribe of pressed trees. A tribe of chicken-scratch that can be scattered by the wind, diminished to ashes by one struck match.

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker)
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:
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Nanapush Character Timeline in Tracks

The timeline below shows where the character Nanapush appears in Tracks. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Winter 1912, Manitou-geezisohns, Little Spirit Sun
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Nanapush tells his granddaughter (Lulu) of the slow decline of his Anishinabe tribe due to consumption.... (full context)
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Nanapush says he found Fleur in her family’s cabin on Matchimanito Lake, where he and his... (full context)
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Nanapush straps the sick Fleur to their sled of supplies. The tribal policeman wants to burn... (full context)
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The two arrive at Nanapush’s cabin and Nanapush unties the girl from the sled, but his companion is too afraid... (full context)
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When he is well enough, Nanapush returns to Matchimanito to bury Fleur’s family. He makes the markers for their graves, scratching... (full context)
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...one day to say that Fleur’s cousin Moses has been found in the woods. When Nanapush goes outside to gather snow to boil into tea, he is surprised to find how... (full context)
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...in the hopes of measuring the lake, despite their fear of the lake monster, Misshepeshu. Nanapush tries to convince Fleur to stay with him in his cabin, but she remains intent... (full context)
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...many never return. Those who do, though, take much of the lumber with them, and Nanapush feels himself weakening along with the earth. (full context)
Chapter 3: Fall 1913-Spring 2014, Onaubin-geezis, Crust on the Snow Sun
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Nanapush continue his story to Lulu, telling her that his name loses power each time the... (full context)
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Fleur both embraces and resists Nanapush like any daughter would a father after he saves her. Nanapush hints that Fleur has... (full context)
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...holding a black umbrella and wearing a dress that is too small for her, and Nanapush says that he didn’t think, at the time, about whether the dress was tight because... (full context)
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...has turned half animal as a way of defeating consumption. When Moses was a child, Nanapush had tried to help him fool the spirits into thinking he had already died, and... (full context)
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...in Argus, and that it is far more than a single summer’s wages. Fleur visits Nanapush at his cabin, and he asks Fleur if something is wrong. She tells him that... (full context)
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Nanapush explains to Lulu that Pauline was always unclassifiable as a person and uncomfortable to be... (full context)
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Nanapush then introduces Eli Kashpaw, who he describes as not the most industrious or educated of... (full context)
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Eli tells Nanapush a story of hunting a doe in the woods, and injuring it, so that he... (full context)
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...helps her to bed and then sleeps alone on the other side of the room. Nanapush tells Eli he should be happy he survived this encounter, but Eli says now he... (full context)
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Nanapush breaks down and tells Eli of his romantic history and what pleased his wives, but... (full context)
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Eli’s mother, Margaret, shows up to Nanapush’s cabin to inform him of the rumors she’s heard about her son’s behavior. Nanapush attempts... (full context)
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Eventually Nanapush puts down the paper, and Margaret asks him where Eli learned all of the advanced... (full context)
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...gibberish, and people assume that Fleur saw him watching and punished him. Margaret returns to Nanapush to demand he take her to Fleur’s cabin in his boat. Nanapush repairs his boat... (full context)
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Nanapush and Margaret repeatedly insult each other, but their interaction also grows flirtatious. Nanapush takes it... (full context)
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...house, keeping the table well set until finally, in the winter, Pauline shows up while Nanapush is visiting. Pauline tells Margaret all that happened in Argus, though Nanapush is uncertain what... (full context)
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...in preparing the dead for burial, and sometimes Pauline also sits with the dying, but Nanapush says he would rather die alone in the woods, like a dog, than have Pauline... (full context)
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Fleur’s labor begins. Pauline runs to fetch Margaret, as she might be the grandmother. Nanapush paddles Margaret across the just-melting lake, as Margaret argues that she is not helping because... (full context)
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Eli and Nanapush wait outside the cabin for over a day, and hear nothing from inside. They make... (full context)
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Nanapush says he can only pass on what he hears happened in the house because he... (full context)
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...happening and takes the baby before it can be named. Left outside with the priest, Nanapush says to name the child Lulu Nanapush. (full context)
Chapter 5: Fall 1917-Spring 1918, Manitou-geezis, Strong Spirit Sun
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Eli arrives at Nanapush’s house with an offering of some provisions, in the hopes that Nanapush will take him... (full context)
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Nanapush changes the subject to ask Eli what he will do with the cash he is... (full context)
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Eli eats the gopher stew and grimaces at the foul taste. He tells Nanapush that he wishes Fleur were a member of the church, because then he could simply... (full context)
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Nanapush reflects on how the Anishinabe land is slowly being whittled down and sold, and how... (full context)
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After six days of putting Eli up, Nanapush has had enough of Eli eating his cupboard bare. On the seventh day, Nanapush hands... (full context)
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Nanapush mentally reminds Eli not to startle the moose because its adrenaline would sour the meat.... (full context)
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Nanapush meets Eli on his return, and removes the meat from his body—it has all frozen... (full context)
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Eli tells Nanapush that one night Fleur slipped out of the cabin and Eli followed her to the... (full context)
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Nanapush tells Eli that he is foolish and ungrateful. Nanapush says that Eli must start over... (full context)
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Nanapush says the rift between the people of the tribe grows after the incident between Eli... (full context)
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...together over a land agreement with the lumber company. The two men pass them and Nanapush has a bad feeling. He tries to convince Margaret to turn around and go to... (full context)
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Boy and Clarence then jump out to grapple with Margaret and Nanapush, and Lulu runs off. Margaret bites Boy Lazarre, giving him a wound that will later... (full context)
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Nanapush realizes that this is not just about land, but about Clarence wanting to humiliate Margaret... (full context)
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...teach you how to die!” Margaret then sings a shrill death song. Clarence knocks out Nanapush. When Nanapush wakes up, he sees that Boy has sliced off Margaret’s braids and now... (full context)
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...safe, sitting with Nector at Margaret’s house. The kids ask where Margaret’s hair is and Nanapush pulls it from his pocket, ashamed that he wasn’t able to prevent the men from... (full context)
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Nanapush thinks hard on how they’ll do it, eventually thinking of a plan when they return... (full context)
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...for days as an infection in the wound Margaret gave him climbs up his arm. Nanapush and Nector finally set the snare near Boy’s shack. They wait outside in the cold... (full context)
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Nanapush and Nector reveal themselves to Clarence, but Nanapush can’t bring himself to kill him, and... (full context)
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Father Damien asks if Nanapush and Margaret will marry, and Nanapush tries to shock him by saying they’re already having... (full context)
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Winter continues, but Nanapush’s traps remain empty, and they run out of moose meat. Margaret tries to convince Nanapush... (full context)
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Margaret runs outside with some of the items in the trunk, and Nanapush hears tearing. He goes outside, ready to beat Margaret for her transgressions, but sees that... (full context)
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Nanapush becomes depressed in Margaret’s absence. He grows so weak he cannot stand, and has a... (full context)
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When the snow thaws, it’s Margaret who wakes Nanapush with a spoonful of berries. Lulu is there too, with a new pair of patent... (full context)
Chapter 6: Spring 1918-Winter 1919, Payaetonookaedaed-geeziz, Wood Louse Sun
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Pauline relays a story from Nanapush about guiding a group of white men to hunt buffalo. They killed so many for... (full context)
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Nanapush, who spends much of his time at the Pillager cabin and is there now, mocks... (full context)
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Pauline continues to visit Fleur’s cabin, and Nanapush notices that she wears her shoes on the wrong feet, another way of punishing herself... (full context)
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Nanapush, though, has not given up on teasing Pauline. On a day when Pauline needs badly... (full context)
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Nanapush tells that nine months later the girl bore a child, and he pulls a condom... (full context)
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...her skin and allows her toenails to grow uncomfortably long. She also makes herself suffer Nanapush’s insults to her as he refuses to allow her inside because of her stinking underwear,... (full context)
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...her to take. It seems as though it is taking too long for Margaret and Nanapush to arrive. Fleur holds onto Pauline and repeats the word “no” as the baby emerges. (full context)
Chapter 7: Winter 1918-Spring 1919, Paguk Beboon, Skeleton Winter
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Nanapush finds Lulu passed out outside Margaret’s cabin. Lulu is so frozen that she can say... (full context)
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...he must take Lulu to his office because one of her feet is entirely frozen. Nanapush refuses her being taken away, because he knows the doctor won’t be able to save... (full context)
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Nanapush nurses Lulu for days in Margaret’s cabin, though Fleur, trapped in her own cabin by... (full context)
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When Nanapush arrives at the cabin, Fleur looks ragged and sick, and lurches toward Lulu on the... (full context)
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...himself, but catches only a tiny perch. That night, Fleur sings a foreign song until Nanapush urges her to sleep. None of her sung prayers cause the appearance of the food... (full context)
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...town. She returns with Father Damien, who has a pack of provisions for the family. Nanapush greets the priest, and Father Damien shows them a map of the land on the... (full context)
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Nanapush tells Father Damien that the government can’t tax their parcels of land because they are... (full context)
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Eli goes to town to get the last of the supplies due to them, but Nanapush knows they are giving up some of their independence in accepting them. He notes, too,... (full context)
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The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
Nanapush thinks of the wisdom he would pass onto Fleur if she would listen. After much... (full context)
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Nanapush tells Lulu that Napoleon was driven to drink again by the new relatives in the... (full context)
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One day, Nanapush and Nector go to the Morrissey farm as Napoleon is butchering his last cow. Clarence... (full context)
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...in the ice. They can eat more now that they are catching their own, and Nanapush is again interested in Margaret romantically. They make love, and Nanapush says they should build... (full context)
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...all the others in the house the child belonged to were blind drunk. He tells Nanapush he should step forward and involve himself in the government to prevent further tragedies like... (full context)
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Nanapush says that after Fleur lost her other baby, she became more protective of Lulu. Margaret... (full context)
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Two days later, Moses approaches the Pillager cabin carrying two drums. Nanapush mixes yarrow with another ingredient he won’t name, a concoction he dreamed of. The potion... (full context)
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Nanapush pulls some meat from the boiling pot with his hands and gives it to Fleur... (full context)
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Afterward Fleur seems improved, but Nanapush isn’t sure if it’s his cure that helped her or the money that they finally... (full context)
Chapter 8: Spring 1919, Baubaukunaetae-geezis, Patches of Earth Sun
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
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...as novice, and then she will leave all of her previous life behind. Pauline finds Nanapush’s boat and a stone for an anchor, and launches onto the lake alone. Pauline spies... (full context)
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...sees the Morrisseys approach, including Napoleon and young Marie. The Kashpaws and Pillagers retreat, but Nanapush stays on the shore, getting into the same canoe Father Damien had tried to row... (full context)
Chapter 9: Fall 1919-1924, Minomini-geezis, Wild Rice Sun
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Nanapush hears wildlife rushing toward Fleur’s cabin, and soon after finds the cause to be the... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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On his way back to Matchimanito, Nanapush considers the deep scars in the land from the lumbering company. He sees the road... (full context)
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Nanapush realizes that Eli must already know the truth, but shares what he’s learned anyway. Nanapush... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Nanapush wraps Fleur in the blanket, telling her to close her eyes, and she falls asleep.... (full context)
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Nanapush moves to Margaret’s house, but he is never able to believe the best of her... (full context)
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One day Nanapush goes into the confessional to play a trick on the policeman. The priest is suspicious,... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Nanapush tells Lulu that Fleur sent her away because she could not protect Lulu from all... (full context)
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Nanapush goes to visit Fleur, walking around the lake the long way, despite the threatening weather.... (full context)
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The weather gets very still as Nanapush sees Fleur standing in the door of her cabin, and he knows Moses is also... (full context)
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Nanapush hears the wind building and the voices of the dead gamblers from Argus in the... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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After this, Margaret and Nanapush attempt to get Lulu back from the government school. Nector goes to Oklahoma. In their... (full context)