Hannah Edwin, a Tlingit elder leaves, Cole

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Hannah LeeTouching Spirit Bear SummaryAt the beginning of the novel,  fifteen-year-old Cole Matthews from Minneapolis arrives on an island in Southeastern Alaska with his hands in handcuffs. He is accompanied by two Tlingit Indians, named Edwin and Garvey. These two are guiding Cole on the terms of his banishment.After many years of trouble with the law, Cole takes it too far when he beats a school classmate against a sidewalk, Peter Driscal. Cole had robbed a hardware store and bragged about his story at school. Peter reports it to the authorities, causing Cole to become infuriated. Consequently, Peter suffers with speaking, ongoing nightmares, and head trauma.Garvey, a parole officer offers Cole two options. One is to take the path of Circle Justice or go to prison. The Circle Justice is a Native American originated program that is a”healing form of justice.”Cole agrees to join, but only to get out of prison. He goes through a series of meetings in order to prove how worthy and committed he is to the program. Cole also tells The Circle Justice about his alcoholic father that had physically abused him. The Circle decides that by banishing Cole to a remote island, they can teach Cole a lesson and also protect others at the same time.Once Cole arrives on the barren island, he is filled with anger. As soon as Garvey and Edwin, a Tlingit elder leaves, Cole sets his shelter and supplies on fire. Cole attempts to swim to another island for “freedom” and almost freezes to death along the way.  Within his next few days on the new island, he has several encounters with a white bear, known as Spirit Bear, and he is determined to kill it out of rage. He spots the Spirit Bear once more, and attempts to stab it with a spear. The bear is not affected and instead violently attacks Cole. The bear breaks Cole’s hip and right arm and also knocks him out. He notices a few dying baby birds and wonders how he would die. Left to die after the attack, Cole comes to realize his own internal problems and his need to immediately change in order to survive. A while after the attack, the Spirit Bear calmly approaches Cole. Cole reaches out to touch the bear and grabs a tuft of hair from it. Cole is shocked by how peaceful the bear is. He manages to survive by  grass, worms, and a mouse until Edwin and Garvey arrive to check on Cole. They find him nearly dead, with mosquitoes and decay surrounding him.Edwin and Garvey take him to a nurse named Rosey who cares for him until he is taken to a hospital in Minneapolis. He reunites with the special blanket that he had on the island. While recovering, he finds that his mother, had confronted his abusive father and agreed to press charges against him Cole is extremely anxious to return back to the island, however the members of the circle disagree, saying that he already used up his chance. Edwin returns from Alaska to defend Cole and insists that he should be given a second chance with The Circle. Edwin’s request is successful.Back on the island, Cole is forced to rebuild his own shelter, and Edwin teaches him several different rituals that will maintain his healing process throughout the year. He is instructed to take a bath in a freezing lake every morning to clear his mind filled with anger. Then, he must take a large rock up a hill, and then roll it back down as a symbol of releasing that anger. And lastly if he sees a wild animal, then later that day he must do a dance imitating that specific animal, to learn a lesson from it. He does a wolf dance, eagle dance, and many others. However, he is filled with worry as he had not seen the Spirit Bear since his return . He occupies himself from winter to spring by carving a totem pole and doing assigned school work.As he continues to heal, Edwin tells Cole that Peter had developed extreme depression and attempted suicide twice. Cole suggests that a way for Peter to heal is to have him come to the island and see how Cole had changed. At first Cole scares Peter, however Peter is soon encouraged by Cole’s lack of violent action towards him. Peter starts to shove Cole and throw punches. Cole shows Peter around the island and the healing process he had went through, which allows Peter to understand Cole’s situation.As the two continue to forgive each other, they see the Spirit Bear once more. At the end Peter and Cole carve a circle onto the last empty space on Cole’s totem pole, symbolizing the peace that they had now found.

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