Essential Quotes

Essential Quotes by Character: June Kashpaw

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 4, “The Beads”

I didn’t want June Morrissey when they first brought her to my house. But I ended up keeping her the way I would later end up keeping her son, Lipsha, when they brought him up the steps. I didn’t want her because I had so many mouths I couldn’t feed. I didn’t want her because I had to pile the children in a cot at night. One of the babies slept in a drawer to the dresser. I didn’t want June. Sometimes we had nothing to eat but grease on bread. But then the two drunk ones told me how the girl had survived—by eating pine sap in the woods. Her mother was my sister, Lucille. She died alone with the girl out in the bush.

Summary
Marie Kashpaw, June’s aunt, is the matriarch of the community, taking in stray children who need a home, as well as providing a home for her own children with Nector. When June is brought to her, Marie sees a wild, untamed child. Found in the wilderness by the Cree Indians, June is given a necklace of beads, not for her protection, but the protection of the Crees against whatever dark spirits are associated with the girl. Having survived on pine sap after her mother’s death, June comes to live with Marie and Nector (and will eventually run off with and marry her cousin Gordie). Though Marie loves June as one of her own, the child finds a closer bond with Eli, the twin brother of Marie’s husband, Nector. Never quite fitting in with the others, June nevertheless forms an integral part in the lives of the characters throughout the novel.

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 1, “The World’s Greatest Fishermen”

Even when it started to snow she did not lose her sense of direction. Her feet grew numb, but she did not worry about the distance. The heavy winds couldn’t blow her off course. She continued. Even when her heart clenched and her skin turned crackling cold it didn’t matter, because the pure and naked part of her went on.

The snow fell deeper that Easter than it had in forty years, but June walked over it like water and came home.

Summary
June Kashpaw is broke, having only enough money for a bus ticket, given to her by the last man she was with. She is on her way home to the reservation where her family lives: the aunt and uncle who raised her, her husband Gordie, and her children. She is tired from the journey and seeks someplace to rest and someone for companionship. Stopping at a bar with Andy, a man she met on the way, she goes with him in his car and has sex with him. This is the usual way she has managed to survive, finding a man to pay her way and then having sex with him. It is nothing new. After Andy falls asleep, June climbs out of the car and starts walking. Her thinking hazy from alcohol, she ignores the signs of the changes coming in the weather and keeps walking. The snow falls and the winds blow strongly, but still she keeps on walking. Becoming lost in the blizzard, June eventually freezes to death.

Essential Passage 3: Chapter 14, “Crossing the Water”

It’s a dark, thick, twisting river. The bed is deep and narrow. I thought of June. The water played in whorls beneath me or flexed over sunken cars. How weakly I remembered her. If it made any sense at all, she was part of the great loneliness being carried up the driving current. I tell you, there was...

(The entire section is 1443 words.)

Essential Quotes by Theme: Home

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 13, “The Good Tears”

All through my life I never did believe in human measurement. Numbers, inches, feet. All are just ploys for cutting nature down to size. I know the grand scheme of the world is beyond our brains to fathom, so I don’t try, just let it in. I don’t believe in numbering God’s creatures. I never let the United States census in my door, even though they say it’s good for Indians. Well, quote me. I say that every time they counted us they knew the precise number to get rid of.

I believed this way even before those yellow-bearded government surveyors in their tie boots came to measure the land around Henry’s house. Henry Lamartine had never filed on or bought the land outright, but he lived there. He never took much stock in measurement, either. He knew like I did. If we’re going to measure land, let’s measure right. Every foot and inch you’re standing on, even if it’s on the top of the highest skyscraper, belongs to the Indians. That’s the real truth of the matter.

Summary
Lulu has lived in a small house on land that was “settled” by her husband Henry. After Henry’s death (most likely by suicide, parking his car on a train track), Lulu continued to live there with her eight sons. Yet Henry never bought the land, but merely settled on it. He was known as a “squatter,” someone who lives on property that is uninhabited but is either owned by someone else or is owned by the government. In this case, the land where Lulu was living was owned by the tribal government. With their intent to build a factory on the land, the tribal council voted to evict Lulu (the order being signed by the tribal chief and Lulu’s lover, Nector). Yet Lulu refuses to move. She claimed the land by living on it, by improving it, by building a home on it. When the contractors come to measure the land, she reflects on this need by the authorities to measure things, whether it is land or people. Counting gives power to the counter. It is this against which Lulu rebels.

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 12, “Love Medicine”

It hits me, anyway. Them geese, they mate for life. And I think to myself, just what if I went out and got a pair? And just what if I fed some part—say the goose heart—of the female to Grandma and Grandpa ate the other heart? Wouldn’t that work? Maybe it’s all invisible, and then maybe again it’s magic. Love is a stony road. We know that for sure. If it’s true that the higher feelings of devotion get lodged in the heart like people say, then we’d be home free. If not, eating goose heart couldn’t harm nobody anyway. I thought it was worth my effort, and Grandma Kashpaw thought so, too. She had always known a good idea when she heard one. She borrowed me Grandpa’s gun.

Summary
Nector (Grandpa) continues his almost lifelong affair with Lulu. Though mostly at this point in his life, his advancing age and his diabetes spur him to visit her more for candy than for sex. Yet still, Marie (Grandma) is hurt by his unfaithfulness, though over the years she has had to face it many times. Her love for Nector has never faded, and now that the end of their lives is approaching, she would like for him to at last become solely dedicated to her, his wife. Lipsha, their grandson, wants to help his grandma fulfill her dream of keeping his grandpa at home. Known throughout the reservation has having a magic touch, known as “love medicine” that inspires devotion and fidelity, he devises a plan to help his grandparents. Since geese mate for life, he plans on...

(The entire section is 1525 words.)