White Man’s Dog is “restless” as Cold Maker churns the dark clouds in the distant northern sky. In the near dark, White Man’s Dog looks down the Two Medicine River to the quiet lodges of the Lone Eaters. He looks at the expansive range of the Backbone of the World mountains and notices Chief Mountain. This smaller mountain is the sacred landmark of the three tribes of the Blackfeet—the Pikunis, Kainahs, and the Siksikas. At the top of Chief Mountain are the blackhorn skull pillows of the great warriors, where their ancestors dreamed visions and were made “strong in spirit and fortunate in war” by the animal helpers.
The Pikuni people have a deep connection to the natural world, and White Man’s Dog’s restlessness mirrors his natural surroundings. Cold Maker, or winter, is eager to make himself known—just like White Man’s Dog. This connection to the natural world manifests in Pikuni spirituality as well, and Chief Mountain is the holiest of sites. For generations, warriors have gone to the mountain to fast, pray, and experience visions, which in turn give them power.
At eighteen winters, White Man’s Dog has little wealth and no tribal respect. Unlike his father, Rides-at-the-door, who has three wives and many horses, White Man’s Dog has no women and only three “puny” horses. He doesn’t own a many-shots gun and his animal helper is “weak.” He prays to the Above Ones for stronger medicine, but White Man’s Dog must find his own power—he is only allowed the help of a many-faces man.
Pikuni society is patriarchal and polygamous, and a man’s status is directly related to how many women and horses he has. Wealth is usually obtained by warring, and when White Man’s Dog prays for “stronger medicine,” he is looking for courage. Medicine is often gifted by animal helpers, and without a strong spirit animal, White Man Dog’s best hope for courage a medicine man.
White Man’s Dog thinks of his father’s youngest wife, Kills-close-to-the-lake, and the way she looks at him. He often catches her staring at him, and it makes him uncomfortable. White Man’s Dog has never been with a woman and his friends tease him and call him a dog-lover. Most women ignore him because he does not own a gun or strong horses.
White Man’s Dog’s masculinity is directly related to his wealth, or lack thereof. Owning a repeating rifle is an indication of great wealth—more horses can be taken at gunpoint than with a bow and arrow. Kills-close-to-the-lake is also an indication of Rides-at-the-door’s wealth. She is young (roughly the same age as White Man’s Dog) and beautiful, and she means that Rides-at-the-door is a very rich man.
White Man’s Dog looks to the sky and watches as Seven Persons rises high above Chief Mountain. Despite the brisk wind, White Man’s Dog thinks that Cold Maker will remain in Always Winer Land for a bit longer. As he makes his way to his father’s lodge, White Man’s Dog asks Seven Persons and the Above Ones to forgive his impure thoughts about his father’s wife.
Seven Persons, or the Big Dipper, holds great spiritual significance for the Pikuni people. White Man’s Dog looks to the heavenly figure for guidance. He also looks to the Above Ones—the other heavenly bodies that are represented by constellations in the sky—as a source of strength and guidance.