Love Medicine Research Paper
Natalie M Phillips English Research Paper November 30, 2010 Imagine an Indian Reservation, what do you see? A tribe united, as if all were born from the same mother, inseparable, and connected in ways only the tribe’s members could appreciate. All of the tribe members gathered together to honor their ancestors and culture. This is what the majority would assume about Native Americans living on a reservation, but in Oral History by Louise Erdrich, the families living on this reservation have lives filled with betrayal, alcoholism, love, and triumph.
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The novel is told from many different characters’ point of view, ranging in a fifty year time frame, which makes Oral History distinctive. The National Book Critics Circle Award winning novel keeps the reader engaged throughout its fourteen chapters, as the novel ventures in a maze of interconnected short stories. As stated in a review about Love Medicine published by the Chicago Tribune, “A dazzling series of family portraits…. This novel is simply about the power of love. ” Louise Erdrich received many awards, media attention, and positive reviews after publishing Love Medicine.
She received praise for the novel’s writing style; she graces the pages with a true understanding of Native American culture depicted through the poetic style, dialect, tone, descriptions, and setting. Readers also appreciate how Erdrich describes the lives of two Chippewa families while trying to preserve their heritage while residing in modern-day society. In order to understand why Erdrich crafts such a unique and credible narrative, it is important to know her background. Erdrich’s mother was both French and Ojibwa, and her father was a German- American.
Her grandfather was the Tribal Chairman for the Turtle Mountain band of Chippewa Indians. Erdrich’s parents taught at the Bureau of Indian Affairs School. Later, She received a Bachelor’s Degree from Dartmoth College. While at Dartmoth, she met her future husband, Michael Dorris. At the time, Dorris was the director of Dartmoth’s Native American Studies Program. Erdrich was an editior for Boston’s Native American populations newspaper titled “The Circle”. Later, Erdrich went back to school at John Hopkins University, where she received her Masters of Art.
Louise Edrich faced many battles in her personal life; she had six children, three of which were adopted. In 1989, five years after Love Medicine was published, her adopted son Reynold Abel was hit by a car and died at age twenty three. Six years later in 1995, Erdrich and Dorris’s son Jeffery Sava accused his parents of child abuse and filed an extortion case against them, which caused Dorris and Erdrich to, shortly after, file for divorce. One year after the divorce, Erdrich’s ex husband Dorris committed suicide. Currently, she is a member of the Ojibwa Indians.
Throughout Love Medicine, Erdrich pours the emotion she experienced during personal conflicts and tragedies into describing her characters’ hardships. Since she was born into a Native American Chippewa family, she is a viewed as a credible Native American fictional story writer. Although Love Medicine is fictional, she ties in real concerns and hardships that Native Americans face in the real world into the storyline. The dialect helps readers quickly understand qualities and characteristics of each narrator, even after only reading a few pages from each chapter.
Erdrich’s talent and credibility oozes from the pages of Love Medicine, but in order to learn more about her and the character’s culture, one must know more about the Chippewa Indians. The Chippewa Indians refer to their selves as Anishinaubae, but they were given the name Chippewa by another tribe of Cree Indians. The Chippewa Indians were discovered by the French. They began trading with them soon after, which changed the way they lived. The Ojibways change camps by season to be closer to food sources based on their annual schedule of seasonal fishing.
They fished in the summer, harvested wild rice in the fall, hunted, and ice fished in the winter, then tapped maple syrup and spear fished in the spring. The Chippewas were very superstitious. They believed in shamans and vision quests. Shamans are known more commonly as “medicine mans”. They believed that shamans can control the weather and can predict your future. The Ojibwa based time in three ways, twenty four hour periods: nights, months: moons, and years: winters.
Each month had a name that represented a natural event or object. For example, “ricing moon” was the month of September, because that is when tribes harvest wild rice. Also, October is known as “falling leaves moon”. Chippewas wore clothes made from animal hides, mostly tanned deer hide. The women dressed in deerskin dresses, leggings, moccasins. The Chippewa men wore leggings, breechcloths, and moccasins. After contact with the Europeans, they changed from the traditional dress to wearing woven clothing.
A result of contact with the Europeans was that the Chippewas were exposed to severe illness, increasing death rates. Another important aspect, of Chippewa Indians, is where they lived. Majority of the Native Americans live on or close by the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. Majority of the time, the government assigned land to the Indians that was barren and had little to no amenities. As a result, Native Americans faced many hardships, for instance, unemployment, poor educational systems, alcoholism and disease rates were very high.
In Love Medicine,Marie Lazarre Kash-paw sends her older son, Nector, off to live at a school for his education, but keeps her teenage son, Eli, at home where he can learn about their heritage. Today, statistics tell us that reservation Indians are better educated and healthier than ever before and much more economically well off. In conclusion, Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich is full of tradition Native American values, tradition, and hardships. Erdrich brings the pages alive by using her personal experience to illustrate the lives of the Chippewa Indians.
We must remember the importance of the Chippewa Indians in our communities. The Chippewa Indians are very insightful and wise, for example this quote from an Ancient Indian Proverb, “Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children. ” I believe we can all learn something from the values and tradition the Chippewa Indians demonstrated throughout their daily lives. I thought you might appreciate this family tree chart for Love Medicine , I found it while doing research on the novel!