Tracks by Louise Erdrich
It is easy to forget within the pride of patriotism that the United States is a post-colonial culture. Through the devaluation and near extinction of the cultures that once thrived within the confines of what some now consider the greatest country in the world is the story of so many colonized people from all over the world. Though not the only theme within Louise Erdrich's Tracks, the postcolonial reality of the U.S. can clearly be seen as an assumed reality within the limited and often challenged existence of the Native American culture of the Chippewa.
Rather early in the post-colonial phase, "Tracks chronicles the lives of Ojibwa people living in North Dakota between the winter of 1912 and the spring of 1924." (Stookey 1999) Scholarship on the issue of colonial native America has recently headed toward the interdisciplinary approach and has learned to embrace narrative fiction. "The elements of a sound Native American history would include an interdisciplinary perspective, reconstruction of the American Indian experience, and a more complete description of how Native societies adapted to changing conditions. We historians have not always written such enlightened...
"a definition of the American West is in order. Historians, environmental or otherwise, will continue to debate whether the American West is a geographical place or a cultural process."
The challenges of becoming a member of a mixed society are many and within the novel Tracks can be seen the assumed realities of the changing world of the Chippewa people. The society and culture no longer belonged to them. They became members of towns that served their needs only in the way of the conquerors. "Two stores competed for the trade of the three hundred citizens..." (Erdrich 1988 13) Once the needs of the goods they needed to simply live have been met their spiritual lives were then bartered for, "...Three churches quarreled with one another for their souls. There was a frame building for the Lutherans, a heavy brick one for Episcopalians, and a long narrow shingle Catholic church." (Erdrich 1988 13) Though Catholocism may be the most frequently challenged western faith in the text, Throughout Tracks and continuing in Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich invites us to observe the generative consequences of certain sacred Chippewa practices when applied to Roman Catholicism (and vice versa)." (McCafferty 1997)
Author Rita Ferrari speaks of the kind of…
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