Meanwhile, the Lone Eaters camp near Riplinger’s trading house, keeping their distance from the other bands trading there. The women trade for cloth, pots, and white man’s cooking powder, and the children enjoy candy and dolls. The men trade hides for tobacco, half axes, and the coveted many-shots gun, of which there are only a few.
Because of trading houses like Riplinger’s, the Pikunis no longer hunt for subsistence living only. The blackhorn population is already waning, and now each tribal member is harvesting more hides to buy more merchandise.
Only the important men can get a many-shots gun. Riplinger has only eighteen repeating rifles, and he presents them to the chiefs in hopes that it will strengthen their trading relationship. As Rides-at-the-door arrives, Riplinger greets him first in Blackfeet, then in Napikwans’ language. Riplinger respects Rides-at-the-door as a smart man; he is one of the few Indians known to speak the English language as well. Still, Rides-at-the-door does not like the Napikwans, and his responses to Riplinger are short and curt.
The very nature of the trading posts undermines the Pikunis’ communal lifestyle. The trading posts mean that new ways of amassing wealth have been introduced to the Pikunis and this works to increasingly divide the people by their wealth and status, moving them further away from the center.
Riplinger makes small talk and offers Rides-at-the-door a drink. He declines, and Riplinger presents him with a many-shots gun. As he leaves, Rides-at-the-door notices Riplinger’s wife standing in the doorway. She wears a calico dress and is young, near Striped Face’s age, and even though she smiles at him, there is fear in her eyes.
Riplinger’s wife is evidence of the assimilation of the native people. The fear in the young girl’s eyes reflect her discontent with her changing lifestyle.
Back at the Lone Eaters’ camp, White Man’s Dog returns as Sun Chief ends his journey. He has taken longer than expected, but his horse stepped on a rock on the way back and had become lame. As the villagers gather to hear of White Man’s Dog’s travels, he is seated in the place of honor next to Three Bears. He tells them that he visited all the bands, except that of the Many Chiefs. Seizers had chased Owl Child and his gang, and Mountain Chief had led them to Canada.
Mountain Chief leads Owl Child and his gang to Canada because the seizers are not authorized to cross the international line. Several native tribes have already crossed the northern border, along with the illegal whiskey runners and runaway soldiers escaping desertion charges.
White Man’s Dog sees Heavy Shield Woman and Red Paint in the crowd, and he notices Red Paint watching him. White Man’s Dog says the bands have expressed approval of Heavy Shield Woman’s vow, and that they each believe her to be a virtuous woman. Three Bears officially invites Heavy Shield Woman to begin her preparation for the ceremony, and he reminds her of her arduous task. “I am strong and glad in my heart to be the Sacred Vow Woman,” Heavy Shield Woman says. They all pray for her success.
Three Bears reminds Heavy Shield Woman of the difficulty of her role because she made her initial vow under distress. She wanted her husband back so badly she would have done anything, and now Three Bears fears she is not up to the task. If she fails to be virtuous enough, the tribe stands to suffer greatly. While her prayer has been answered, Three Bears still doubts her.
Later, Mik-api tells White Man’s Dog that he has recently been to Yellow Kidney’s lodge and that he has expressed his gratefulness over White Man’s Dog kindness to his family. Mik-api goes on to tell White Man’s Dog that Yellow Kidney is afraid because he is a burden on his family, no man will want to marry Red Paint. White Man’s Dog grows excited at the idea of marrying Red Paint and runs home to get his family’s blessing.
Any man who marries Red Paint will also be taking on the added responsibility of hunting for her family and teaching One Spot and Good Young Man how to hunt and provide as well. Yellow Kidney tells Mik-api this hoping that White Man’s Dog will take on this burden long-term.
Back at White Man’s Dog’s lodge, Double Strike Woman is upset that her son does not want to marry Little Bird Woman. Her father is powerful, and it will be a strong match. Plus, if White Man’s Dog marries Red Paint, he must take care of Yellow Kidney as well. Rides-at-the-door gives his son permission to marry Red Paint. Kills-close-to-the-lake sits nearby, never looking up from her quillwork.
In Double Strike Woman’s opinion, if White Man’s Dog marries Little Bird Woman, he is guaranteed wealth and success in war. If he marries Red Paint, however, the exact opposite holds true.
Four days later White Man’s Dog’s family and Red Paint’s family gather to exchange gifts. Rides-at-the-door presents his son with his many-shots gun. Red Paint moves her things into a small tipi near Rides-at-the-door’s lodge, and the entire camp gathers to celebrate.
The celebration and exchange of gifts reflects the traditions and culture of the Pikuni people. Welch ultimately argues that ceremonies such as this, along with storytelling, have the power to sustain the Pikuni way of life.
During the celebration, White Man’s Dog takes a walk outside and looks up for Seven Persons, but he can’t see it. Suddenly, he hears a voice and looks up to see Kills-close-to-the-lake. “I am happy for you,” she says. “I wish you to have this.” She gives him a soft-tanned scabbard, decorated with a thunderbird design, for his new rifle. He looks at it with tears in his eyes.
The tears in White Man’s Dog’s eyes suggest that he has deeper feelings for Kills-close-to-the-lake than he admits. His true feelings, like Seven Persons, are not entirely clear. Thunderbirds typically symbolize strength and power within Native American culture, and once again, White Man’s Dog finds the strength to resist his father’s wife.
Later, as the summer wears on, the Pikuni people pack camp and begin the journey to Four Persons Butte for the summer ceremony. During the ceremony, the Sacred Vow Woman and her helpers construct a lodge for Sun Chief, and the people honor him with prayer, song, and dance.
The summer ceremony reflects the link between Pikuni spirituality and the natural world. The construction of the lodge is proof of their deep respect and appreciation for nature.
On the first day, after Heavy Shield Woman purchases the sacred medicine bundle from the previous Sacred Vow Woman, the bull blackhorn tongues are obtained. All the Pukuni bands arrive and form a great circle, and Heavy Shield Woman’s lodge is constructed in the center. The women helpers hold the tongues up to the sky and ask Sun Chief to affirm that they are all virtuous women. The tongues are then boiled and cut up. Heavy Shield Woman begins to fast.
The use of the bull blackhorn tongues during the ceremony of the Sacred Vow Woman is further proof of the blackhorn’s sacred importance within the Pikuni culture. The blackhorn tongues are a vital part of the ceremony, and without them, the women would not be able to properly make their offerings to Sun Chief.
The next day they proceed to a second camp, carrying the sacred bundle and tongues on a sled. They camp in four different places during the next four days, finally arriving on Four Persons Butte. On the fifth day, a young Pikuni warrior rides out into the valley and selects the perfect tree. They chop it down and begin to hack off its limbs “as though they were the arms and legs of their enemies.”
The tree that the young Pikuni warriors cut down is symbolic of a sacrificial killing made in the name of Sun Chief, and it is a reflection of the deeply religious nature of the Pikuni people.
In her lodge, Heavy Shield Woman prays to the Above Ones, the Below Ones, and to the four directions. As she prays, her mind drifts, and she thinks of Yellow Kidney. Since his return, she feels only pity for him, and he no longer shows her any feelings of love. She is distracted when the previous Sacred Vow Woman begins to transfer her power.
Heavy Shield Woman is not committed to her vow. She doesn’t take the vow to bring health and prosperity to her people—she takes the vow because she must. She made a bargain to get her husband back because it was in her best interest, and in doing so she has put the wellbeing of her tribe at risk.
The husband of the previous Sacred Vow Woman begins to empty the contents of the sacred bundle as he prays and sings. First, he holds up an elkskin dress, followed by an elkskin robe, both of which are placed on Heavy Shield Woman. He then removes the remaining objects: a medicine bonnet made of weasel skins, feather plumes, and a doll stuffed with tobacco seeds and human hair; and the sacred digging stick that So-at-sa-ki used to dig turnips as Morning Star’s wife.
The contents of the sacred bundle reflect the Pikunis’ spiritual connection to the land and animals. Each totem represents a different animal and is endowed with that animal’s spirit and power. Both tobacco and hair also have spiritual connections—most ceremonies and prayers involve smoking as an offering, and hair, of course, is thought to contain parts of the spirit, or soul.
Morning Star had married So-at-sa-ki, a mortal Pikuni woman, and moved her to the sky. But she missed her family, and she dug up the sacred turnip and made a hole in the sky so that she could see them. Night Red Light became angry—she had already told her daughter-in-law not to dig up the turnip. Sun Chief was also angry, and he banished So-at-sa-ki and her son, Star Boy, back to earth to live with her people. She was glad to see them, but she also missed her husband and died of a broken heart.
So-at-sa-ki’s longing for her family is symbolic of the community of tribal life. She is missing a large part of herself when she is taken away from her people, and this tragedy parallels the threat currently facing the Pikuni people. Their way of life cannot be sustained in the face of the invading Napikwans, and many of them will be forced to live outside the tribal community.
As Star Boy grew into a man, a scar appeared on his face. His people ridiculed and shunned him, and a many-faces man told him the way to Sun Chief to seek his help. When Star Boy arrived, Sun Chief wanted to kill him, but Morning Star stopped him. Not knowing he was his son, Morning Star taught Star Boy the ways of the sun and the moon. One day, Star Boy saved Morning Star from a group of deadly birds, and Sun Chief rewarded him by removing his scar. He sent Star Boy back to earth with instructions to honor him each summer in return for blessings.
Star Boy, like the Pikunis, must prove himself to Sun Chief. Sun Chief does not blindly remove Poia’s scars; the boy must first impress Sun Chief and earn his assistance. The summer ceremony is the Pikunis’ chance to likewise prove their own case to Sun Chief and earn his assistance by impressing him through prayer and sacrifice.
The ceremony continues, and a procession distributes the sacred tongue to the sick and poor. By nightfall, the warriors begin to stand the center pole of the Medicine Lodge; if the pole does not stand straight, Heavy Shield Woman will be accused of not being virtuous. The pole stands straight, meaning Heavy Shield Woman has accomplished her vow. She breaks her fast and the Pikunis sing and dance.
The ceremonial feeding of the sick and poor represents the Pikunis’ sense of community and the greater good. Like White Man’s Dog, they feed those who are unable to feed themselves. Heavy Shield Woman’s virtue is ultimately based on chance. It is a gamble which, luckily, has nothing to do with her own dedication.
The next day, White Man’s Dog wakes at dawn with a terrible dread. In the distance he can hear a single drum. He looks to Red Paint and is amazed by the love he feels for her. He walks outside and looks around the camp, the mountains, and the sky. He feels the strength of the Pikunis and is ready for the task ahead.
White Man’s Dog feels the strength of the Pikunis when he looks to the sky and mountains because of his strong connection to the natural world. The single drum he hears is symbolic of a single heartbeat sustaining the tribe.
Later that day, Mik-api and two other men paint White Man’s Dog’s skin white with double rows of black dots going down his arms and legs. They place a wreath of sage around his head and wrap his wrists and ankles with sage grass. They then pierce his breasts with a bear claw and push sarvisberry sticks under his skin. The sticks in his breasts are attached to two rawhide lines that hang from the top of the Medicine Pole at the center of the Medicine Lodge.
Sage is a particularly sacred herb in Native American culture and is known for its cleansing and purifying qualities. Sage can drive away negative spirits and energy, and it attracts only positive energy in return. Bear claws are often symbolic of power and courage. This ceremony is a form of spiritual cleansing, as well as a display of White Man’s Dog’s courage and power.
At the pole, White Man’s Dog thanks Sun Chief for assisting him during his raid on the Crows. He asks for forgiveness for his thoughts of Kills-close-to-the-lake, the he backs away from the pole and dances. He dances harder and harder, pulling the rawhide. The pain grows as he dances, and he breaks one of the berry sticks, but the other holds firm. He is in searing pain, and Raven flies into the lodge and caws to him, “think of Skunk Bear, your power—.” The stick breaks free.
Like the tree cut at the beginning of the ceremony, White Man’s Dog’s pain and blood is a form of sacrifice. He offers himself up to Sun Chief and is cleansed of his sins in return. Once again, as Raven enters the lodge, the natural world responds to White Man’s Dog’s needs and he finds strength and courage in nature and animals.
That night, White Man’s Dog sleeps by himself beneath the stars. He watches Seven Persons in the night sky and Night Red Light is full. He sleeps and dreams of a river he has never seen before. The water flows white over white stones, and the ground is covered with white frost.
The white stones and frost are symbolic of the invading Napikwans. The settlers have begun to whitewash White Man’s Dog’s world and are slowly replacing his culture with their own.
Skunk Bear is near the river, again caught in a Napikwan trap. White Man’s Dog asks the animal why it is so white. “That’s the way it is now,” he answers. White Man’s Dog frees him from the trap and Skunk Bear gifts him a battle song. He tells White Man’s Dog that if he sings the song, he will have power. He then tells him to always leave a chunk of liver behind from every kill for Raven.
Again, as Skunk Bear has given White Man’s Dog power in the form of the song, he has nourished him, metaphorically speaking. Since White Man’s Dog lives in complete harmony with nature, he must feed and nourish Raven in return.
As White Man’s Dog turns to leave, he sees a figure in white fur by the river. It is Kills-close-to-the-lake. She asks if he desires her, and when he says that it is not right, she reminds him that they are in the dream place. White Man’s Dog tries to feel guilt, but there is none, and they lay down in the white grass together.
The white fur of Kills-close-to-the-lake reflects the danger that she represents. Like the white settlers, White Man’s Dog’s feelings for his near-mother are a destructive force.
The next morning, White Man’s Dog wakes in the grass. As he stands and adjusts his robes, a small white stone falls to the ground. He picks it up before joining Red Paint and the rest of his family.
The white stone is physical proof of White Man’s Dog’s dream, and it also serves as a symbol of the power gifted to him by Skunk Bear.
Later, as Mountain Chief stands to make an announcement, White Man’s Dog sees Owl Child and Fast Horse in the distance. Mountain Chief tells the bands that while he doesn’t like the Napikwans, he will respect the decision of the other chiefs and stand down. The white chiefs come more frequently now, but Mountain Chief will agree to a treaty if they do not want too much. He says that while his heart is not in it, he will “accede to the wishes of my people.” Owl Child and Fast Horse ride off angrily.
Mountain Chief makes a difficult choice for the greater good of his tribe. While he wants to fight, he will not go against the wishes of his people. Owl Child and Fast Horse, on the other hand, remain in the distance because they have rejected the communal responsibility of tribal life. Unlike Mountain Chief, they are not willing to ignore their individual desires.
As White Man’s Dog’s family prepares to move camp, he sees Kills-close-to-the-lake. He has not seen her at all during the ceremonies and now notices that her hand is bandaged and that she is missing a finger. “You sacrificed a finger,” White Man’s Dog says. “It is not uncommon,” Kills-close-to-the-lake says. “It is done at the Sun Dance honoring ceremony.”
Kills-close-to-the-lake’s sacrificed finger is evidence of her forbidden love for White Man’s Dog. Like his ceremony at the Medicine Pole, she too has sought forgiveness from Sun Chief for her feelings. She reminds White Man’s Dog that the sacrifice is common so that her actions will not seem suspicious or extreme.
Kills-close-to-the-lake tells White Man’s Dog that she had a dream about him. She describes the white river and tells him how he watched her in the water. She said her skin began to burn and crawl, and when she turned to White Man’s Dog, he was gone. In his place was Skunk Bear. He promised to show Kills-close-to-the-lake his magic but then “ravished her” and bit her finger off. As Skunk Bear threw her finger, it turned into a white stone. “Let this always remind you of your wickedness, sister,” Skunk Bear said. “You’re lucky I didn’t bite off your nose.”
Kills-close-to-the-lake’s dream about Skunk Bear reflects the trappings of her patriarchal society. White Man’s Dog, like Kills-close-to-the-lake, has behaved in a “wicked” way as well, yet he is not punished. Skunk Bear gives him the rock and a battle song, and Kills-close-to-the-lake loses a finger. Ultimately, she is left with the constant reminder of their wrongdoing and he is rewarded.
Kills-close-to-the-lake wept uncontrollably, and then she felt “lighter.” She found the white stone that had been her finger and placed it where White Man’s Dog slept. As Kills-close-to-the-lake leaves White Man’s Dog, he takes out the stone and rubs it, singing the battle song. Although he doesn’t know why, White Man’s Dog believes that Skunk Bear cleansed him and Kills-close-to-the-lake and also had given him more power, in both the song and the stone.
Nature again responds to White Man’s Dog’s needs. He had asked Sun Chief for forgiveness the day before during his cleansing ceremony, and Skunk Bear finishes the job. Skunk Bear also gives White Man’s Dog the battle song because he knows that White Man’s Dog will soon count coup on the Crows on behalf of Yellow Kidney.