Tracks

Tracks/Trails Symbol Analysis

Tracks/Trails Symbol Icon

Tracks and trails, how they’re used and what they indicate, are an important symbol of the journey of the Anishinabe people. Clearly the book has been named after this symbol, and we see the concept returned to again and again throughout. Fleur’s tracks look like those of a bear, indicating her connection to the spirit world, and Pauline’s tracks show that she wears her shoes on the wrong feet, in an offering to God (and as a sign of her cultural and spiritual confusion). In general, footsteps reveal some symbolic meaning about the nature of who they belong to. For Nanapush, Eli, and Fleur, hunting requires following an animal’s tracks until it can be killed. Pauline follows in Bernadette’s “tracks,” learning how to prepare the dying.

All of these are examples of the way the characters travel through their lives, looking for clues as to how to live. At times in the book, pathways are trackless, showing that the place being traveled to has not been visited before. Other times, when human and creatures fail to leave tracks, it could be out of foolishness, growing fatigued and forgetting to provide themselves a way back, or because they are able to hide evidence of their journeys, possibly because they are spirits or as a way of preserving themselves. A trackless world, as when Fleur travels to the land of the dead, is a world unmarred by the effect of the imposing white population surrounding the reservation. At the end of the book, it is said that Fleur is able to leave no tracks because she has performed a ritual in taking Napoleon’s tongue that allows her this skill. Leaving no tracks, in this case, is a symbol of the advantages Fleur has in staying closely tied to the old ways.

Tracks/Trails Quotes in Tracks

The Tracks quotes below all refer to the symbol of Tracks/Trails. 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

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 4 Quotes

In the morning, before they washed in Matchimanito, they smelled like animals, wild and heady, and sometimes in the dusk their fingers left tracks like snails, glistening and wet. They made my head hurt. A heaviness spread between my legs and ached. The tips of my breasts chafed and wore themselves to points and a yawning eagerness gripped me.

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Fleur Pillager, Eli Kashpaw
Related Symbols: Matchimanito, Tracks/Trails
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:
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Tracks/Trails Symbol Timeline in Tracks

The timeline below shows where the symbol Tracks/Trails appears in Tracks. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
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
...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 Fleur should be... (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
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
...story of hunting a doe in the woods, and injuring it, so that he must track the crippled animal. He follows the animal all day, eventually growing tired and failing to... (full context)
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
...swipes at the paper, but Nanapush knows she can’t read and is shy of the “tracks” the newsprint will leave on her skin, because of the mystery inherent in the text. (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
...the bear turns around and runs out of the house into the woods, leaving no trail, suggesting that it might have been a spirit bear. After this, it seems as though... (full context)
Chapter 4: Winter 1914-Summer 1917, Meen-geezis, Blueberry Sun
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
...Clarence and Napoleon stomp down the road. Pauline eats dinner and then follows in their tracks. (full context)
Chapter 5: Fall 1917-Spring 1918, Manitou-geezis, Strong Spirit Sun
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Birth, Death, and Survival Theme Icon
The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life Theme Icon
...with a piece of charcoal, and begins to pray. He has a vision of Eli’s tracks in the snow and knows that he is wandering around aimlessly. The sound of Nanapush’s... (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
...head in solidarity and then goes out hunting, not waiting “for night to cover her tracks.” Nanapush plans carefully, realizing he is now attracted to Margaret. “When I hunt,” he tells... (full context)
Chapter 6: Spring 1918-Winter 1919, Payaetonookaedaed-geeziz, Wood Louse 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
...this path with them. She sees buffalo and unfarmed land. She sees no fences or tracks. Pauline realizes the others she sees are the dead she has blessed, and sees her... (full context)
Chapter 7: Winter 1918-Spring 1919, Paguk Beboon, Skeleton Winter
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
Birth, Death, and Survival Theme Icon
...wrong with Fleur. Margaret wraps her in warmed blankets. The snow outside has obscured any trail or typical landmarks. Lulu had become lost, and suffered more because she’d worn her thin,... (full context)
Chapter 8: Spring 1919, Baubaukunaetae-geezis, Patches of Earth Sun
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences Theme Icon
Birth, Death, and Survival Theme Icon
...goes out, her body newly fleshy from having been force-fed in the convent, leaving strange tracks with her shoes worn on the wrong feet. She wants to visit Matchimanito one last... (full context)
Chapter 9: Fall 1919-1924, Minomini-geezis, Wild Rice Sun
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
...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... (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
...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... (full context)