Indigeneity: being of indigenous descent; having tribal ancestry
Intergenerational: Relating to, involving, incorporating several generations into a dialogue
There is a shame around being indigenous. Leopolda tells Marie:
“’You have two choices. One, you can marry a no-good Indian, bear his brats, die like a dog. Or two, you can give yourself to God.’” (48).
In this case, “God” is not only a reference to a deity, but also to the culture of white people. In surrendering herself to “God’s work”, Marie can escape her supposed fate, or rather, avoid becoming the “savage” Leopolda believes she will turn out to be if she remains on the reservation. The mantra of the convent is likely similar to the Carlisle school in that the goal of both would be to “Americanize” or “Catholicize” the “savage” tribes. While they bake, Marie comments that she’s been doing God’s work all her life. Leopolda then tells her that she’s done it with the Devil in her heart, rather than God (51). Basically, Marie has been doing the right thing all her life, but because she’s been doing it as a part of her tribal culture, she is wrong.
The idea of indigenous culture as inferior continues even in further generations. Albertine notes that June spent a lot of time in a cowboy town, where
“Indian [women are perceived as] nothing but an easy night.” (9).
Despite this instance taking place an entire generation after Marie’s time at the convent, indigenous women are still perceived as inferior to white people.
This concept is highlighted more explicitly later on, noting that
“[Catholics] gave you worthless land to start with and then they chopped it out from under your feet. They took you kids away and stuffed the English language in their mouth. They sent your brother to hell, they shipped him back fried. They sold you booze for furs and then told you not to drink” (326).
Erdich highlights the oppression indigenous people have faced for centuries. Intergenerational narratives allow readers to notice the racial constructs that evolve with time. In the 1950s, Marie was physically oppressed by Leopolda in order to attempt to indoctrinate/assimilate her into not only the culture of Catholicism, but also the culture of whiteness. June, although not oppressed in the same way, is still oppressed by being objectified. Love Medicine highlights the idea that racial oppression continues to be in place for indigenous people today.