Since the beginning of colonization of America, there has been the problem of
dealing with the indigenous people of the land. After the first attempts in
eradicating the population, the American government changed its policy to
integration. It is this integration into white society and the severance from the
Indian culture that causes disenfranchisement in the modern Indian reservation.

In Louise Erdrichs Love Medicine, the contradictory efforts to isolate the Native
Americans on reservations and to make regular Americans of them are seen
over roughly a fifty-year period. The Morrisseys, Kashpaws, Lamartines,
Lazarres and others must define their relations to alien religions, customs,
economic realities, and family and social structures. And over this struggle
hangs a veil of alcoholism and despair.

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June Kashpaw was taken in by Marie Kashpaw and her family as a young
girl and later moved with Nectar Kashpaws brother, Eli. Though Native
American definitions of family include various ties of friendship, including
spiritual kinship and clan membership, June is treated as an inferior because
she is not a member of a nuclear family, which is strictly a Western European
institution. As a result, June leads an unhappy life of promiscuity while looking
for a home and a sense of belonging. On the Christian holiday of Easter, June
finds her home by dying in the snow. However, it is interesting to question
whether Junes home is in the Christian-defined heaven or the afterlife believed
Despite the lonely life that June led, she caused her son Lipsha Morrissey
to live with the same feeling of alienation by giving her son away to her mother
Marie. Lipsha also grows up without knowing of his ancestry and therefore feels
incomplete. Added to the stress of this, Lipsha also feels detached from the
white society by having the ability to use the old Indian medicines. Yet through
the latter part of the book, Lipsha finds redemption from his disenfranchisement
by finding the identity of his parents and accepting his talent. It is after he
discovers this information that Lipsha crosses the river water and steps into his
The character of Henry Junior not only illustrates the loneliness of not
knowing ones father, but also of not belonging to the majority race of ones
country. Henry Junior is one of the seemingly infinite amount of sons which
resulted from Lulu Lamartines friendliness. Due to this renowned trait of Lulu,
Henry Junior was never quite sure who his father was. Yet Henry felt no
connection with his fatherland either. In fact, fighting for the white mans war in
Vietnam was inevitably the cause for Henry Juniors death. The atrocities
committed during the war were never forgotten by Henry Juniors conscience
and it isnt until his suicide in the river that his guilt and alienation is lifted.

The intervention of so-called western culture to the Indian population of
North America has created a society of indigenous people that struggle to
belong in their homeland. Louise Erdrichs Love Medicine brings these struggles
to light through the use of dramatic characters and their interactions with one
another. Unfortunately, solace from this disenfranchisement arrives mostly
through the death of the human body.

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich