Tracks deals with the devastation of the Anishinabe (also known as Chippewa or Objiway) people between the winter of 1912 and the spring of 1924 in Matchimanito, North Dakota. The novel focuses on the life of Fleur Pillager and those with whom she comes into contact, dramatizing their struggle for survival as well as their many-faceted conflicts. In alternating chapters, the story is narrated by Nanapush, a tribal elder, and Pauline Puyat, a fanatic nun of mixed heritage. The two narrators complement but at times also contradict and undermine each other.
At the age of seventeen, Fleur is rescued by Nanapush during a severe winter when inhabitants of Matchimanito are found dead from consumption and starvation. After recovery, she goes to Argus to work at a butcher shop. There, she meets a younger girl, Pauline, who has known her as a survivor of two drownings and hence is convinced that Fleur is the chosen one of Misshepeshu, the lake monster. Pauline reports how Fleur, having aroused the desires of three male workers and beaten them at the card table, is sexually assaulted. Russell, Pauline’s nephew, tries to stop it but to no avail. Later, a tornado strikes the town, and the three men take refuge inside a meat locker, refusing to let Pauline and Russell in. Russell shuts them in from the outside, freezing two of them to death. After the incident, Pauline returns to the reservation, where she learns that Fleur is pregnant. It is uncertain how Fleur becomes pregnant, but according to Nanapush, through personal insights and love medicines, he has helped Eli Kashpaw, a hunter, win her passionate love. Fleur’s childbirth proves to be so difficult that she almost dies. The baby, given the name of Lulu Nanapush, is in fact the person Nanapush addresses throughout his narrative.
Meanwhile, Pauline becomes a helper in Argus at a farm...
(The entire section is 762 words.)