Over the course of the last year or so I have been reading the Cork O’Connor series of books by William Kent Krueger. The plots of each book involve a crime that has occurred on or near a fictional Ojibwe Reservation in Minnesota. I know, telling you about a series of mystery books is a little off topic when it comes to totems but I do like to share with you from time to time other subjects of interest that involve the cultures of the American Indians. I think that many of you would also enjoy reading this series of books which includes story lines that covers present day struggles and successes of the Anishinaabe people (also called Ojibwe or Chippewa). Often times Krueger will also bring some of the old ways and legends into the plot.

Corcoran O’Connor is the main character in each of the books. Cork shares the ancestry of both the Irish and Anishinaabe and will often show the pitfalls of being of a mixed heritage. More than once in the books he will mention that many times the non-native people of the town he resides in will look at him as Indian while the Ojibwe look at him as white and an outsider. Krueger does a nice job of showing the inner struggle of a man of mixed cultures and also how Cork can work well with both.

Cork has had two Anishinaabe men who influenced the man he has grown up to be. Sam Winter Moon taught him many of the old ways in hunting and tracking and was very much a father figure after his Dad died when Cork was a young boy. Henry Meloux is a spiritual teacher and mentor for Cork and is one of my favorite characters in the books. Henry is a Midewiwin or a Mide who advises both Cork and members of the reservation on the spiritual aspects of a situation along with history and legends of the people. He is really a fascinating character!

I also like that Krueger, who is a non-native, respectively paints a picture with his words about what life on a reservation can be like, the good and the bad. He adds some history into his plots about the economic struggles and successes for the people who live in the northeast region of Minnesota. He teaches us words of the Anishinaabe language along with  sharing legends and beliefs. I never get the impression of any stereotypical depictions of his characters but more an honest portrayal of what the members of any community will encompass. There are good people, bad people, misguided people and some who border on all.

I am now reading book number thirteen in the series, so I think that is an indication that Krueger has written well enough for me to continue getting his books. I would recommend that if you plan to read these books that you start with the first in the series. Although any could be read on their own and be a great read, the books to reference story lines of the previous books.

Iron Lake Book #1

I hope you won’t mind that I strayed a little this week and did not talk about a specific totem. I feel that sometimes reading a good book can help us to grow, too. A bit of medicine in a different form. This series of books has entertained me but taught me things that I would not have known, too. Just the other day, when my husband and I were watching a movie a term was used and I said, “Oh, that is an Ojibwe term and it means…”.

The plots are intriguing, too. There is a crime to solve and Cork is in the middle of figuring out “who done it”. It is always interesting to read how he works through the process and will sometimes be completely on the wrong track. There have been many times that I have thought, “Wow, I did not see that coming!” I also like that Cork’s family are always a part of the story lines. As you read through the series you watch his children grow and his relationship with them.

~Beverly Two Feathers~

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