Hemingway's story represents a clash of cultures. For example, as the natives lead Nick, his father, and uncle back to the encampment, the Objiwa and their white visitors walk "into the woods and followed a trail that led to the logging road as the timber was being cut away on both sides." The forest was the life of the Ojibwa; for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, they took what they needed from the land at a gradual pace that sustained the people. When whites began clear cutting the ancient forests, it was the beginning of the end of their way of life.
Throughout the story we see these clashes occur. Another example comes in the rough treatment of the pregnant woman by the doctor (Nick's father.) Ojibwa and many other tribes observed strict blood and gender taboos. Men were never allowed into the birthing huts. The afterbirth, which the doctor disregards and disposes of, had many rituals associated with it to ensure the child a life of fortune and good health.
The man's suicide is understandable if one understands how he believed he, his wife, and his child were doomed. The white men are oblivious, Nick too young to do anything. Hemingway was documenting before our eyes a lifestyle on its way to oblivion.