Louise Erdrich

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Tracks, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion

Throughout Tracks, the four Anishinabe families (Kashpaw, Pillager, Nanapush, and Puyat) struggle to find a balance of the old ways of their people and the aggressively encroaching influence of white civilization. While all of the characters show some balance of these two ways of life, the native ways are clearly far more endangered as white culture invades and takes over. The book asks whether it is possible for these characters to survive and participate…

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Gender Roles

Tracks inverts traditional white American gender roles by showing the important position of women in reservation life, even allowing the female characters to take on the bulk of the responsibility for survival. The strength of these female characters threatens the supremacy of males both on and off the reservation, prompting men to either adjust their actions and expectations to correspond with shifting gender roles or to lash out against the power women stake out for…

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Self-Destruction vs. Outside Influences

Tracks is set at a crucial time in the history of the Anishinabe people. From 1912 to 1924, this tribe of Native Americans was under extreme threat by the invading influence of white culture. Logging and unreasonable taxes resulted in the loss of the land they needed for both farming and hunting, leaving them without the ability to feed themselves and survive. Furthermore, their religion was threatened by the encroachment of Christianity, and consumption (tuberculosis)…

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Birth, Death, and Survival

The contrast between birth and death is at the forefront of Tracks. The book begins at a point when many of the Anishinabe people have died, and Nanapush saves the life of Fleur Pillager. While the tribe is under existential threat, new people are constantly being born. Instead of making the tribe feel more hopeful for the future, however, births are seen as being inextricably tied to death, and therefore they remind the…

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The Importance of Nature in Indigenous Life

As the threat of the logging industry and Western culture encroaches on the Anishinabe reservation, the Native American traditions most closely tied to the landscape are also threatened. Without the land and wildlife that the Manitou spirits (or fundamental life force) are said to inhabit, the culture of their tribe is similarly endangered. Detached from the natural world that used to provide the tribe its sustenance in the form of animals to hunt and vegetation…

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