Shell Shaker Characters
The main characters in Shell Shaker are Shakbatina, the Billy sisters, Red Shoes, and Redford McAlester.
- Shakbatina is a Shell Shaker, or peacemaker. Over the generations after her death in the eighteenth century, she learns to influence present events for the good.
- Auda, Tema, and Adair Billy are the three daughters of Susan Billy and descend, in the matrilineal Choctaw fashion, from Shakbatina herself.
- Red Shoes is a Choctaw warrior in the eighteenth century who chooses not to become a peacemaker.
- Redford McAlester, presented as a reincarnation of Red Shoes, is the tribal chief of the Oklahoma Choctaws in 1991.
Shakbatina is an eighteenth-century Shell Shaker, or peacemaker, who appears to various other characters throughout the novel in the form of visions. At the start of the story, her daughter, Anoleta, is accused of murdering a Red Fox woman, and Shakbatina offers herself as a blood sacrifice in order to prevent a war. After Shakbatina is dead, her bones are placed on a burial scaffold until her husband, Koi Chitto, performs a bone-picking ceremony that frees her spirit.
Over centuries, Shakbatina slowly learns how to protect her people as a spirit; by 1991, she has harnessed the vengeful part of her personality, as well as the peaceful one, and learned how to return in the form of prairie fires and visions, thus impacting modern events and protecting her people into the present.
The husband of Shakbatina, Koi Chitto performs his wife’s bone-picking ceremony, though it is uncommon for a husband to do so for his wife. He is visited by various spirits, including an alligator spirit and a porcupine spirit. Koi Chitto returns to Yanàbi Town to defend it against Red Shoes’s attack but is killed in battle.
The eldest daughter of Shakbatina, Anoleta is paralleled in the twentieth century by Auda Billy. Anoleta loves Red Shoes, a Red Fox man, but cannot forgive him for causing her mother’s death by killing his own wife and then leaving Anoleta to take the blame for the murder. Anoleta witnesses her father and her uncle, Nikatechi, being slaughtered; subsequently, she and her sister Haya know that they must push Red Shoes into the fire, even though they both love him.
A complex figure, Red Shoes is an eighteenth-century warrior whose goal is to gain for his people the advantages white people have. It is said that he rejected a spirit which was sent to teach him how to become a peacemaker. Instead, his attempts to improve his tribes’ lot causes division and, ultimately, massacres.
Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville
Bienville is a white man who traded with the Choctaws in New Orleans, a town he helped to found. He is a great friend of the Choctaws and keeps a written record of their conflicts and difficulties. Bienville was an early governor of French Louisiana.
The oldest of three daughters, Auda Billy is an academic who specializes in the history of the Choctaw people. She is romantically involved with the chief of the tribe, Redford McAlester, whom she helped elevate to his position. However, she becomes aware of irregularities in McAlester’s behavior and character; eventually, he rapes her. At the beginning of the story, Auda shoots him, assisted by the spirit of Shakbatina, and is tried for, but acquitted of, his murder. Like Anoleta before her, she still feels love for McAlester (or, in Anoleta’s time, Red Shoes) despite his behavior.
Redford McAlester is a character twinned with the historic Red Shoes. A tribal chief with a savvy eye for financial opportunity, he founded a casino to help make money for the Choctaws. He associates with the Mafia and the Irish Republican Army and uses the casino for money laundering purposes. As he explains to Auda through a series of visions after his death by gunshot, he did mean well for his tribe, as Red Shoes...
(The entire section contains 1187 words.)
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- Chapter Summaries