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Garnet Raven is the subject of the story because he was taken out from his home at age three. Because of the building of a hydro plant, they moved to the city. Garnet says,
It was natural in my parents’ eyes to leave us with the old lady [his grandmother] while they were out trying to make a living. But the Ontario Children’s Aid Society—all they seen was a bunch of rowdy little Indian kids terrorizing a bent-up old lady. Now anybody who knows anything about Indians knows that if there was any terrorizin’ being done at all it was done by the old lady
The children had been coaxed into a car by a social worker, using candy (chocolates); their grandmother was out back.The family was really upset and didn't have any idea what happened to the children until a day later. The children were kept together for only a short while.
Garnet went to many foster homes, then he always escaped. He was searching. He was only basically surviving, living on the street. When one day in Toronto he met a black family that rescued him. He was nurtured by them, but he used drugs and went to jail.
His family of origin found him in the jail and the story in the book is how he recovered his Indian identity, as an Ojibway.
The story is upbeat showing that Indian elders welcome those who went astray and want to reclaim their heritage. The most important character to Garnet is Keeper, who had studied under his grandfather. Keeper feels he's been given another chance at life because he can help the old man's grandson. (The man who mentored him.) Keeper says:
See, when we get sent out into the world we come here carryin’ two sets of gifts. The gifts of the father an’ gifts of the mother ... We come here carryin’ those two sets of gifts, each one equal to the other. But sometimes the world gets hold of us and makes us see diff rent way. We get told as men that we gotta be strong, gotta be fearless. Lotta us kinda start ignoring the gifts of our mother. Go through life just usin’ the gifts of the father. Bein’ tough, makin’ our own plans. Livin’ in the head. But if you do that you can’t be whole on accounta you gotta use both of them equal setsa gifts to live right, to fill out the circle of your own life. Be complete. Gotta use the mother’s gifts too. Like gentleness an’ nurturin’, livin’ in the heart. That’s where the female power comes from. Livin’ in the heart. Them that’s tryin’ to chase the female outta themselves an’ their world are chasing out half of who they are. Busy bein’ incomplete. That’s not our way (115).
Harmut Lutz, Contemporary Challenges: Conversations with Canadian Native Authors (Saskatoon: Fifth House, 1991)
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