Tracks

Bears Symbol Icon

A bear is one of the clan markers of the Pillagers. Bears stand as symbols for Fleur specifically, and for the ailing Anishinabe people more generally. Nanapush tells Lulu that she was born on the day the last bear was shot on the reservation, an echo of the dwindling population of native people in addition to the diminishing natural resources of the land. This bear appears drunk at the Pillager cabin as Fleur is giving birth, in another symbol of the threat of alcohol to the native people. When the bear enters her cabin, Fleur finds the strength to push out her child. In that moment, the bear serving as a symbol of her clan and of her need to continue her family line. The shot the bear suffers only gives the bear strength, indicating the way that Fleur grows strong in the face of a threat. When the bear runs away, it leaves no tracks, and so is thought to have possibly been a spirit bear, another symbol of the way the spirit world is actively in conversation with Fleur.

Bears Quotes in Tracks

The Tracks quotes below all refer to the symbol of Bears. 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 3 Quotes

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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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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Bears Symbol Timeline in Tracks

The timeline below shows where the symbol Bears 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
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
...He lists all the “lasts” he witnessed in the tribe—the last buffalo hunt, the last bear shot—and mentions that he refused to sign the settlement papers from the government that would... (full context)
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
Birth, Death, and Survival Theme Icon
...Matchimanito to bury Fleur’s family. He makes the markers for their graves, scratching images of bears and a marten into each one. Nanapush prays to the dead Pillagers, asking them to... (full context)
Chapter 2: Summer 1913, Miskomini-geezis, Raspberry Sun
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
...gone mad, wearing men’s clothing, studying the ancient traditions of medicine, and turning into a bear, leaving behind tracks that match a bear’s claws. Some members of the tribe believe that... (full context)
Chapter 3: Fall 1913-Spring 2014, Onaubin-geezis, Crust on the Snow Sun
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
...Fleur, Nanapush tells Eli, “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.” Eli returns to Fleur and... (full context)
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
...He informs Lulu that she was born on the day Pauline shot the reservation’s last bear, which was drunk on trader’s wine. (full context)
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
...hear the sound of the Manitous in Fleur’s cries, and Nanapush speculates that perhaps the bear heard these calls as well. Eli, who has gotten drunk in his anxiety, slashes his... (full context)
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
...pass on what he hears happened in the house because he was not there. The bear rears on its hind legs and Fleur, filled with fear and power at the sight,... (full context)