Subjugating the Anishinaabe Tribe Cold and frigid winds sweep across the northern plains. Freezing the inhabitants to the bone. The bleak and seemingly desolate environment paint an atmosphere nearly bereft of any hope for prosperity and happiness. Majority of the main characters do endeavor to give it their best attempt. The remnants of the Anishinaabe are the related lineage of our narrators and the primary characters they describe. The characters in “Tracks” live dismal and austere lives. Scraping together barely enough sustenance to maintain their survival. By their very natures, the books actors, live far from prosperous existences. The story is related by two very different narrators. Elderly Nanapush and Sister Pauline. The method of Nanapush’s narration can take on a lyrical or poetic tone at times. He sets the scene beautifully “We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continue to fall.” From the books first line a grim precedent is set out before us. Giving us a clear picture of the books theme and setting. Nature and its unforgiving and relentless characteristics. We cannot always foresee every step in our own futures. Life is not always structured along well defined and specific paths and steps. Tracks chronicles extremely well the final days of the Anishinaabe. They were forcibly relieved of their ability to govern themselves, or at least limited in their options. Subjugating them and assimilating their beliefs and customs. Creating a black mark on American history, which is on par with the enslavement of African Americans. Each of the primary, and to a lesser degree, secondary characters represents a portion of the struggle against white supremacy in their homeland. Nanapush struggled to maintain a traditional sense of family, the heritage of his people. Pauline was the opposing side of that coin. She attempted to assimilate with the here and now. Completely turning her back on where she came from. Fleur was ever the wild card, the unpredictability of the past and present merging. Each of them personifies a specific facet or personality trait that resisted the loss of the land, beliefs and practices to the “white man.” This book is, in part, an attempt to illustrate how the native peoples of this continent struggled to salvage a portion of their traditions, heritage and livelihoods.
As James Flavin states in his evaluation “The Novel as Performance” Nanapush resists revealing or exposing to much of himself to other people. Especially white people. “’Nanapush is a name that loses power every time it is written or stored in a government file. That is why I only give it out once in all those years.’” He seems to believe that overexposing oneself to anyone who is not a Native American gives away a portion of your soul. Nanapush simply wants the ability to retain a piece of traditional heritage. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, a branch of the Department of the Interior, is the government agency depicted in tracks. They are the agency tasked with the management of the lands and peoples that preceded Europeans on this continent. Maybe that is the irony with this portion of North American history. The Native Americans never felt the need to manage and control other people. The British colonists and their descendants felt the need to conquer, steal from, and forcibly subjugate the original occupants. Nanapush masks a great amount of melancholy and sadness with a somewhat jovial nature.
“My girl, I saw the passing of times you will never know.
I guided the last buffalo hunt. I saw the last bear shot……I spoke aloud the words of the government treaty, and refused to sign the settlement papers that would take away our woods and lake.” He would momentarily pacify them, but they kept on requiring more and more of him and the people, land and traditions he held most dear. He is like an old oak or juniper tree that grows old and gnarled and refuses to give way,