The novel Tracks, while an entertaining read, is (as I've learned) far more than a simple novel. The book perplexes me with its symbolism and layered and difficult to discern metaphorical references. I am accustomed to reading books wherein characters are simply people, birds, bears, the wind, etc. Surprisingly, I did "get" the underlying story; Nanapush was telling Lulu about her family her people and what portents the future held for them all but, the symbolism was not clear. Only after hour upon hour of research, reading and pondering thereon did I gain a modicum of understanding of the importance of symbolism in Native American culture, story telling and, literature; their Anglo-American counterparts a largely devoid of metaphorical and symbolic elements. This is a clear indication, though her name, Louise Erdrich leads one to believe she is Anglo-American, is actually a Native American and of the Ojibwe People. In fact, Harold Flett reinforces this deduction in Aboriginal Symbols and Practices: "There are many symbols, practices and customs, some of which are well-known to many people and some which are known only to a few.
To achieve full understanding of some of these symbols and practices, one must personally experience them or be led to enlightenment through traditional teachings of an elder." "[Louise] Erdrich is the oldest of seven children, was born in Little Falls, Minnesota, on June 7, 1954. The daughter of French Ojibwe mother and German American father, Louise Erdrich is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Erdrich's large extended family lived nearby, affecting her writing life from an early age.
Her grandfather was tribal chair of the reservation and her parents taught in the Bureau of Indian Affairs School (Bedfords.) In an Reader's Digest interview, 1991, she explains "The people in our families made everything into a story. They love to tell a good story. People just sit and the stories start coming, one after another....
Cited: Amnesty International USA. Soul Wound: The Legacy of Native American Schools http://www.amnestyusa.org/amnestynow/soulwound.html
Chiefs of Ontario Magazine. http://www.chiefs-of-ontario.org/magazine/3-03.html
Flett, Harold. Aboriginal Symbols and Practices. http://www.nald.ca/CLR/chikiken/page27.html
Gregory, Leslie. Native American Humor: Powerful Medicine in Louise Erdrich 's Tracks. http://itech.fgcu.edu/&/issues/vol1/issue2/erdrich.html
Native American Authors Project. http://www.ipl.org/div/natam/bin/browse.pl/A30
Vidmar, Shawn. The Bear & The Owl: Finding the Imagery in Louise Erdrich 's Novel Tracks http://www.wdog.com/svid/writing/essays/erdrich_1997.html
Voices in the Gap. Leigh, Amy and Piyali Nath Dalal. http://voices.cla.umn.edu/authors/LouiseErdrich.html
Wikipedia. Pillager Band of the Chippawe Indians. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pillager_Band_of_Chippewa_Indians
Wisconsin Stories. Ojibwe Clan System. http://www.wisconsinstories.org/images/outreachpdf/ season1/ nativejourneys/OjibweClans.pdf#search= 'ojibwe%20clans '
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