June Morrissey is the daughter of Marie’s sister: half-Lazarre, half-Morrissey from the Pillager line, wife of Gordie Kashpaw, mother of King Kashpaw and Lipsha Morrissey. June is first adopted by Marie Kashpaw, but later is raised by Eli Kashpaw the bachelor of the family. June runs away from Gordie and King, returns several times only to leave again. June dies in the first chapter. Love Medicine begins with June Morrisey freezing to death on her way home to the reservation.
Although she dies at the beginning, the figure of June holds the novel together. The story begins with June Kashpaw, whose death in the opening chapter haunts this book. Moving from man to man, tired beyond her years, June abandons her latest one-night stand as he sleeps in his car on the cold North Dakota plains. She stands alone under the night sky and begins to walk. A woman who has seen everything and has really come to the very end of her despair begins to walk toward home, not knowing that she is going to pass into an Easter blizzard.
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And that the purest part of her is going to continue going home, no matter what is in her way. I think that she is one of the most complex, but intriguing characters. Although June dies in the first chapter of Love Medicine, she remains a strong presence throughout the book as her family reflects on her life, death, and strange beginning. June has that connection to the land and the spirits within it that some of her other relatives were lacking. She was raised on the land and that gave her a stronger connection with Earth.
It was because of that connection that she would have felt that something was about to happen. I think June knew that she would never make it home alive, but rather she pushed forward knowing that she would make it home a different way. By moving toward her fate June is able to stop her own suffering and become one with the land she loves so much. The “pure and naked” part of her suggests that her soul was what went forward not burdened by her body or the parts of her that had been corrupted. She was finally free of all the darkness that had always surrounded her.