121 pages 4 hours read

Louise Erdrich

The Night Watchman

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2020

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Chapters 11-20Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 11 Summary: “Pukkons”

Thomas goes to speak with his father, Biboon. Along the way, he finds a bush full of green nuts called pukkons. Together, they eat the nuts. Among the shells is a golden beetle.

They speak in Chippewa, since Biboon “[thinks] more fluently in Chippewa. Although his English was very good, he also was more expressive and comical in his original language” (67). Referring to the resolution, Thomas tells Biboon that the US government has a new plan that would end all treaties. This  doesn’t surprise Biboon. He also finds some comfort in the fact that it affects all Indigenous people in the US rather than only their tribe.

Biboon traveled as a child with his family, encountering other tribes’ territories. When they returned to Turtle Mountain, new restrictions on the reservation required that they get permission to leave, and, for a while, no one was allowed. They needed food, but without being able to leave, the “old people starved themselves so that the young people could continue” (68). Biboon tried farming, and they were able to just barely get by. He stopped farming grain, instead planting corn, squash, and beans. Slowly, his family became better farmers, and Thomas still tried to learn from his father’s experience.

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