“We have survived the flu epidemic of 1918… but at last we will be destroyed by a collection of tedious words.” This is a thought from Thomas Wazhashk, the titular watchman of Louise Erdrich’s novel, and a member of the Chippewa tribe. The tedious words are congressional legislation that seeks to effectively end the existence of his tribe, something Thomas—modeled after Erdrich’s real-life grandfather, who helped stop such a bill in 1953—writes letters into the haunted night to try and prevent. Ultimately, Erdrich’s tale is as much about politics as it is about community. Between Thomas and his 19-year-old niece, Patrice—who heads to Minneapolis to track down her missing sister—as well Patrice’s mother and futile suitors, the author has once again etched indelible Indigenous characters into the U.S. literary landscape that for so long erased them.
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