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  • Writer's pictureForrest Lonefight Writes

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Every job I've ever had, the conversation of my Native American heritage comes up with co-workers. I tell them I'm from two distinctly different tribes: one of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, and from Meskwaki of the Sac & Fox Tribe in Iowa. I'm an enrolled member in the former, I was raised and identify with the latter.

The topic always goes to money.

"I heard you guys get like $3000 (or whatever $ amount they've heard) every month!"

I laugh and say, "I wish." Every tribe is different. Not every tribe has a casino per cap payment.

Does the inquisitive co-worker walk away with a better understanding that there is more to the stories than what they "heard?"

Firekeeper's Daughter, the young adult novel by Angeline Boulley brings these subjects to the world to understand; also, her book is now on the way to Netflix via President Barack & First Lady Michelle Obama's Higher Ground Productions as a series! More Native TV!!!

Our main character is hockey-nerd & science-playing 18-year old Daunis Fontaine. Her NDN (Anishinaabe aka Ojibwe language) name is Firekeeper's Daughter. She is half white and is NOT enrolled, though her dad's side wishes her to be. Her Ojibwe tribe has a casino per cap in place, but she gets none of it. (I can imagine her work conversations being very prying due to this fact.) Her emotionally fragile mother chose not to enroll her at the admonition of her mother, Daunis's grandma, who is of wealthy French Canadian immigrant pedigree. Daunis grew up with this Fontaine/Firekeeper feud. She is entering college, and her disposition is felt throughout her complicated story.

The setting is the beautiful Sault Sainte Marie and the nearby Sugar Island Ojibwe Rez along the U.S & Canada border in Michigan. The author creates the scenes so well with her words. I was immersed and could feel the cool Lake Superior breeze with the ferry horn tooting in my mind. I want to visit this place!

Unfortunately, the story is wrought of tragedy as there are a series of meth-related murders on the Rez. Daunis witnesses the senseless murder of her best friend. Daunis's love interest turns out to be an undercover FBI agent who is on the case in a big meth ring investigation. He is guising as the new hot-shot hockey player from out-of-town in his first season on the Sault High School team.

Complicated. Yeah.

I decided to open this review on the subject of Tribal Enrollment because midway through the book there is a plot-twist that had me yelling, "WTF! Poor Daunis! That isn't right, man!"

Tribes have their own constitutions and laws regarding enrolled members. When crimes happen on the Rez, there are certain jurisdictional loopholes where criminals can go unpunished. For the safety of future generations, every tribe must update and revise these (in most cases) out-of-touch laws that can be abused.

So, to that end, this book is a MUST READ. It is an important entry for NDN/Indigenous literature and a watershed moment for Native Women in ANY fiction. The epic 488-page story will capture you as Daunis goes undercover to catch the bad guys. The author admittedly was influenced by Nancy Drew books and started writing this story in that vein, except in a contemporary Native American perspective. This is refreshing and I can't wait for the Netflix treatment. If the past is any indication, with hot young adult books such as 13 Reasons Why and The Hate U Give, Firekeeper's Daughter should be another cultural milestone!

So when that day comes, I can tell the next co-worker to go watch that Netflix show, but the book is already out and it is awesome! -FL

Available @ Birchbark Books (Support Indie Native-Owned Businesses!):

Available @ Amazon (Fine, go corporate...):

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