by Iola Fuller
Through the personal story of her life and those close to her- her brother and adopted French family- are woven greater events. Things change as the fur trade begins to fall off when trappers deplete the natural resources. The native tribes find life more difficult as game becomes scarce and the intruding white men fell trees in greater numbers. As the fur trade diminishes focus shifts to fishing, it was quite interesting how that came about. Unrest grows when the government fails to hold up their side of treaties with the native tribes. Although Oneta is a father self-effacing character, standing quietly in the background to most events, it turns out she has a large part to play in the end.
This was a rich, satisfying read. There are a wide variety of complex, interesting characters and all their different interactions with Oneta in the village reflect not only how they perceive her as a native and a woman but also how they see themselves. I loved the rich descriptions and subtle symbolism- not only that of the loon, a wilderness bird, but other little things, like for example salt. In the beginning of the novel, Oneta finds food in her stepfamily's home unpalatable, because she's not used to eating salt. And at the end the government switches from paying the natives in gold for land they've appropriated, to giving them goods. The natives are insulted at being given large quantities of salt, a thing they never use, and pile it up scornfully in a heap on the beach to be wasted. Images like that which speak so strongly of people's attitudes and perceptions of each other...
This is the kind of book that leaves you reflecting long after you've turned the final page. I'm definitely keeping this one on my shelf to read again.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 456 pages, 1940 ........
My Experience of Life