The Plague of Doves

The Plague of Doves (2008) is the first part of what is usually referred to as Louise Erdrich’s Justice Trilogy, complemented by The Round House (2012), and LaRose (2016). This first book takes place in and around the Little No Horse Reservation and the nearby town of Pluto, departing from the focus of earlier books on the towns of Argus and Hoopdance on the other side of the reservation.

This regional shift signals a new direction for Louise Erdrich, introducing the reader with a new geographical focus and new characters and families, but as the complex relationships untangle, Erdrich leaves enough traces that reconnect this book to her larger oeuvre.

The Plague of Doves is the story of six families whose lives are intertwined in many different ways throughout generations—slowly revealing the mystery that unites them: the Harps, the Peace family, the Coutts family, the Milks, the Wildstrands, and the Lochrens.

Below, you will be able to find the book’s dictionary of characters—providing short descriptions of who these people are and what their role is in Erdrich’s narrative universe.

Note: characters are not listed on the basis of centrality within the plot. The final section “Other Characters” at the bottom of this page lists the characters who are not embedded in a strong family tree, but the fact that they are isolated does not mean they do not function greatly in the story. 

Milk—Family Tree

Joseph Milk is the father of Severine, Seraph (Mooshum), and Shamengwa. He was probably born around the 1850s and in 1885, he harbored Louis Riel in his farmread more

Severine Milk is the oldest son of Joseph Milk and brother of Mooshum and Shamengwa. He had been the priest of Saint Joseph until his death in the mid-1960sread more  

Shamengwa is the youngest son of Joseph Milk and is considered the neat and dignified counterpart of his older brother, Mooshum’s, jolly disorder. He is very musical and plays fiddleread more  

Mooshum is the older brother of Shamengwa and unlike Shamengwa’s musicality, is drawn to storytelling. He mostly sits in his daughter’s home telling stories to his grandchildrenread more 

It is never overtly mentioned, but Whitey is most likely to be the son of Mooshum. He is a tough man with a pompadour who fights in amateur boxing competitions and works atread more

Clemence is the daughter of Mooshum and sister of Geraldine. She is a devout Catholic who takes care of her father and two children, Evelina and Joseph. She is married to Edward Harpread more

Harp—Family Tree

After the first failed attempt to create the town of Pluto, Frank Harp was the first real settler who came to live in the town. Frank was the person who came up with the name Plutoread more

Murdo, son of Frank, was a ruthless banker who was very disappointed that his son Edward did not become a banker himself. Later in life, he lives in the Pluto Nursing Home where he isread more

Octave is Murdo’s brother who owned a very precious stamp collection. He tried to get hold of a stamp from Brazil and took the money from the bank to get over to Brazil, but he wasread more

Edward is a science teacher who is married to Clemence Milk, with whom he has two children, Evelina and Joseph. After the death of his uncle, he took possession of the stamp collectionread more

Evelina Harp was born around the late 1940s or early 1950s, a girl in her teens in the 1960s who spends many summers listening to her grandfather, Mooshum’s, stories about the pastread more

Joseph is the younger brother of Evelina who looks up to his father who is a science teacher. In the early seventies Joseph pursues his dreams by studying biologyread more

Coutts—Family Tree (and connections)

Antone Bazil Coutts is a mixed-blood judge who plays an important role in both  The Plague of Doves and The Round House. Because of his profession of judgeread more

Geraldine is the daughter of Mooshum. She is close to her sister Clemence and lives in the old house of her parents out on the land. Later in life, she marries Antone Bazil Couttsread more

Mr. and Mrs. Coutts (Antone's parents)

Antone’s parents’ first names are not mentioned. The mother is a Chippewa woman who grew up on the reservation. The Couttses lived with their son in the big house in Pluto that Joseph built himself.

Joseph J. Coutts was a teacher at St. Anthony School at age twenty-five. He lived—and had an affair—with a widow called Dorea Ann Swivel. Unhappy with his situation he takes part inread more

Corwin Peace is the son of Maggie Peace and John Wildstrand. He has a bit of a problematic youth, but straightens out after he is adopted by Antone and Geraldine and becomes a musicianread more

Roman

Roman was the first lover of Geraldine Milk with whom he wrote his initials on the back of a snapping turtle. Roman walked sixty miles just to meet her. Later, he died in a car accident.

Peace—Family Tree

Lafayette and Henri were hired as guides for the town-site expedition of which Joseph J. Coutts was part. They are brothers and share a fiddle that would later come to belong to Shamengwaread more

The much younger brother of Lafayette and Henri Peace. He was drinking with his friend Mooshum on the night they came to the Lochren house. He was hanged by the lynching partyread more

Maggie Peace is the older sister of Billy Peace and gets pregnant as a consequence of an affair with John Wildstrand who is married to Neve Harp. She is part of the plot where John kidnaps hisread more

Billy Peace is a charismatic young man who was forced to kidnap John Wildstrand’s wife. Later in life, he marries Marn Wolde and leads a sect called The Kindred, until his wife kills himread more

Marn was swooned by Billy Peace at a young age. She becomes part of his sect, but through her close relationship with snakes, she distances from him and finally manages to kill himread more 

Judah and Lilith

Judah and Lilith are Marn Wolde’s children. After killing her husband Billy, Marn takes her two children along with her to the 4-Bs to escape. Lilith later changes her name to Nola.

Wildstrand—Family Tree

Eugene was part of the lynching party and decided on the last moment to save Mooshum’s life, because he was married to his bastard daughter, Junesse, though he killed the boy, Holy Tracks.

At a young age, Junesse ran away from her aunt’s home with Mooshum to live in the Badlands of South Dakota. She is the mother of Geraldine, Clemence, and Whiteyread more

Though married to Neve, John impregnated Maggie Peace and tried to kidnap his own wife to get the ransom money. Ultimately, his life falls apart and he is left with nothingread more

Neve Harp was married to the banker John Wildstrand who once had her kidnapped to keep the ransom money for himself. In old age, she befriends Cordelia Lochrenread more

The Lynching Party and their Relatives

Emil Buckendorf and his brothers

Not much is known about Emil Buckendorf. We only know that he has three brothers with whom he went on the first town-site expedition of what would later on become Pluto, and that later, he would be part of the lynching party.

Mantle, Woods, Gostlin, and Hotchkiss

The four men are mentioned to be part of the lynching party. Nothing else is known about them, other than that Gostlin walks out of the hanging at the last moment, because he does not want to hang the boy, Holy Tracks.

Mary Anita is a grade school teacher, in her twenties or thirties and lives in the redbrick convent across the street from the school. She was raised on a farm between Hoopdance and Plutoread more

Frederic, Johann, and Mrs. Vogeli

The Vogelis are family of German immigrants from Heidelberg. The Buckendorfs go by the Vogelis to rouse them up for a lynching of the American Indians who were seen at the house of the Lochrens.

Colonel Benton Lungsford

Colonel Benton Lungsford and the sheriff investigate the Lochren murders. Lungsford fought in the Spanish American War. After the lynching, he moves back to Minnessota.

Sheriff Quintus Fells

Quintus Fells is the sheriff who investigated the Lochren murders. He tries to stop the lynching party, but Eugene Wildstrand kills his horse and Quintus is left crippled.

The Kindred

Bliss

Bliss is a heavy blond woman from Aberdeen, South Dakota. She functions as the treasurer of the Kindred and worships its leader, Billy. Marn had introduced her to her husband’s sect.

Deborah

Deborah is Billy’s secretary for his sect, the Kindred. Marn expects her to give her husband, Billy, blowjobs in his office. Yet, Marn counts her as her only friend.

Anguish

Anguish is a woman from the Kindred who is assigned as caretaker of Marn’s children. Marn is anxious as Anguish had killed her own children in a trailer fire.

Frenchie

After her stay in Seattle, Marn is picked up by Frenchie, a silent and awkward man from the Kindred. Marn and he drive to the 4-Bs to have breakfast.

Holy Track

Charles “Holy Track” Everlasting Sky is around 13 when his mother is taken away to a sanatorium and is adopted by Asiginak. He becomes a basket maker and is in learning to become a priestread more

Holy Track's Mother

Holy Track’s mother was a cousin of Junesse and she and her son lived on the edge of Mooshum’s land, until she started suffering from tuberculosis. She ordered Mooshum to make her son the boots that gave him his name. She died shortly after. 

Asiginak

Asiginak is named after the great chief, Blackbird. He is Junesse’s uncle and a basketmaker. When the mother of Holy Track, one of his cousins, becomes terribly ill, he adopts him and takes care of him.  

Holy Track's Aunt

Little is known about Holy Track’s aunt other than that worked at a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients in Canada and takes her sister in, even though Indians were generally not allowed.

Town-Site Expedition

English Bill

English Bill is the cook of the town-site expedition of Pluto. Joseph Coutts likes his energy, though he dislikes his cooking He owns a terrier and opens a saloon in Pluto after the expedition.  

Reginald Bull

Reginald is a thick, wide-necked, powerful man who falls in love just before going on the expedition. He dies during the journey, and Joseph Coutts visits his lover to tell her about his death.

Odin Merrimack

Odin Merrimack is one of the two speculators who plans and organises the town-site expedition for Pluto. Nothing else is known about him.

Colonel LeVinne P. Poolcaugh

Colonel Poolcaugh is one of the two speculators who plans and organises the town-site expedition for Pluto. Nothing else is known about him.

The Lochren Farm

Father

The father is found with his back blasted out on the grass. He died as he was trying to crawl to his two sons. Nothing else is know about him.

Mother

Nothing is known about the mother of the Lochren family. Like her daughter, she was probably killed in the house.

Sister

Almost nothing is known about the oldest Lochren daughter except that she was a teenager and that Tobek Hess was presumably in love with her. She was probably killed in the house with her mother.

Eight-year-old Brother

This older brother of Cordelia is found lying in the grass, curled on his side, next to his four-year-old brother. Nothing else is known about him.

Four-year-old Brother

Like his brother, this boy is found curled on his side like he was sleeping on the grass. Nothing else is known about him.

Cordelia "C" Lochren

Cordelia is a doctor from Pluto and the baby who was the only survivor of the Lochren murders. She had a long-term affair with Antone Bazil Coutts and befriends Neve Harp later in liferead more

The State Mental Hospital

Mrs. L

Mrs. L is a nurse at the State Mental Hospital. She is known as Mrs. L, because her name is long and Polish, she says. After Evelina’s mental breakdown, she admits her to the hospital.

Nonette

Nonette is one of the newer patients at the hospital. She is depressive, but very charismatic. She seduces and manipulates Evelina. They kiss intimately and it seems Nonette is ultimately switching places with Evelina.

Warren Wolde

Warren is a mentally disturbed man who lived on the farm of his nephew and was later transported to a mental institution where Evelina cares for him. He is the one who killed the Lochrens.

Lucille

Lucille is a paranoid patient at the hospital who thinks she was artificially impregnated nine times and that her children blow spiders under her door. Evelina is responsible for her.

Other Characters

Mrs. Bannock

Mrs. Bannock is the post lady who delivers Mooshum’s love letters to Neve Harp. Nothing else is known about her.

Maude "Mustache" Black

From the age of twelve to seventeen, Junesse and Mooshum live with Maude Black in the badlands of South Dakota. She and her husband Ott stare down a lynching party who come to get Mooshum.

Ott Black

Ott Black is the husband of Maude Black. When the lynching party (not the same party as the one that kills Holy Track) comes by to kill Mooshum, Ott shoots one of the men in the ass.

Ted Bursap

Ted Bursap is a widower who lives in Pluto. He is a general contractor and has jobs in Pluto and Hoopdance. He breaks down everything beautiful about Pluto and builds new apartment buildings. He dies from a bee sting.

Candy

Antone Bazil Coutts tries to make his lover, Cordelia Lochren jealous by flirting with Candy, a striptease dancer from Pluto. She is known for throwing hygienically wrapped G-strings at her audience.

After the death of Father Seraph Milk—in the early sixties, a man named Cassidy from Montana takes over his position as priest. He is described as a “big, whey-faced, pompousread more

Earl

Earl is the manager of the 4-Bs, a diner in Pluto. He is the brother of Whitey’s wife—probably Sonja from The Round House. He has a crush on Marn who also used to work at the 4-Bs.

Gottschalk

Gottschalk is the old man working on the Pluto Cemetery who hires Antone Bazil Coutts. Gottschalk dies not long after and Antone takes over his responsibilities.

Tobek Hess

Tobek is the younger brother of Electa Hoag who disappears on the night of the Lochren murders. He leaves for Canada and joins the army to fight in WWI. He did not commit the Lochren murders.

Oric Hoag

Oric is the husband of Electa and they adopt Cordelia Lochren after her family is murdered. Oric helped the sheriff and colonel in their investigation into the murders.

Electa Hoag

Electa Hoag is the wife of Oric who adopts Cordelia Lochren. She does not mention her brother’s disappearance when the sheriff interrogates her about the Lochren murders.

Beryl Hoop

Beryl Hoop is a girl in Evelina’s school who offers to beat up Corwin Peace for her after he makes a fool of her. She is probably the same age as Evelina, but nothing else is known about her.

Liver-Eating Johnson

Liver-Eating Johnson is one of the fantastical characters in Mooshum’s memories. He is described as an evil trapper who hates Indians. Monster-like, he hunts Mooshum and bites of the tip of his ear.

Dorea Ann Swivel

Dorea Ann Swivel is a widow and the first lover of Joseph J. Coutts. She is also his landlady and gives Joseph a picture of herself before he leaves on the town-site expedition.