Shortly after the Sun Dance, Red Paint works fleshing blackhorn hides. In six days, White Man’s Dog will ride with the war party against the Crows. She knows that war is a part of a young man’s life, but she has grown to deeply love her husband, and now she has missed her time of blood. As she considers the baby she believes is growing inside her, a butterfly lands on the cover of the lodge. “Sleep-bringer,” Red Paint says.
Butterflies are often symbolic of sleep and dreams within Native American culture, and this is in keeping with the significance of dreams throughout Fools Crow. Red Paint resents the fact that White Man’s Dog must war. It has taken her father and she fears that it will take her husband as well.
Heavy Shield Woman approaches, and Red Paint says that her mother looks different since the Sacred Vow. “Someday soon I will appear as I was before, but I will always be different—in here,” says Heavy Shield Woman as she taps her chest. She tells her daughter the ceremony has affected her much like childbirth, and then she says that Yellow Kidney has recently fashioned a harness for his right hand. With it he can hold his gun, now he only needs something to pull the trigger.
Yellow Kidney’s creation of the harness is evidence of his—and by extension, the Pikunis’—resilience is the face of adversity. Yellow Kidney’s approach must be modified, but he is still able to hold his gun, and hopefully someday hunt and return to his traditional lifestyle. Yellow Kidney’s perseverance inspires optimism for the tribe.
Heavy Shield Woman says that Yellow Kidney has changed since he returned from the raid. He no longer expresses any love for her, and he appears empty. Heavy Shield Woman has too lost desire for him since becoming a Sacred Vow Woman, and she feels guilty that she does not miss her husband’s touch.
Heavy Shield Woman has not forgiven Yellow Kidney for his rape of the young girl, and Yellow Kidney has not let himself off the hook either. They are both paying for Yellow Kidney’s behavior in the sick lodge.
Mik-api has told Heavy Shield Woman that he can drive the bad spirit from Yellow Kidney, but her husband must be willing. Now, she says, Yellow Kidney is content to dwell on his misfortune, without much thought about how it affects others. At least, she says, his hair is growing back. Red Paint suddenly blurts out to her mother that she believes she is pregnant. Heavy Shield Woman holds her close and weeps happily.
The return of Yellow Kidney’s hair represents the slow return of his spirit after his capture and torture, and it is a small piece of optimism in an otherwise bleak situation. While Yellow Kidney has made some progress, he is still consumed by his shame. The answer to Yellow Kidney’s problems is family and community, but he is busy thinking of himself.
Crow Foot and his young warriors arrive at the Lone Eaters’ camp before riding to Crow territory. Rides-at-the-door is worried that Crow Foot will be angry that White Man’s Dog did not want to marry Little Bird Woman, but she has been married to the son of a great chief. That night they celebrate in preparation for their ride.
The Pikunis’ celebration before they attack the Crows is a reflection of the importance of war within Pikuni culture. It is celebrated as well as encouraged, and it is a reason for outlying bands to gather.
White Man’s Dog and Red Paint talk during the celebration. White Man’s Dog admits that he is scared to fight the Crows, but his medicine is strong, and he will be brave. He fears only leaving Red Paint and their unborn son should he be killed, and Red Paint asks him not to go. White Man’s Dog says it is not that easy; he is a warrior and it is his duty to fight and get revenge for Yellow Kidney. The couple talks about their baby, and Red Paint says that she would like to name him Sleep-bringer. White Man’s Dog agrees that it is a fine name.
White Man’s Dog and Red Paint’s conversation highlights the personal risks involved in war. White Man’s Dog would rather not fight, but he does because it is expected of him. Honor and duty are central to Pikuni life as well, and White Man’s Dog is torn between his individual desire to remain with his wife and not war, and his tribal responsibility to avenge Yellow Kidney.
Later, as the men get ready to ride, Fox Eyes, the head Pikuni war chief, looks to the grassy flat near the Yellow River where a treaty had been signed thirteen years ago. One of the conditions of the Napikwan chief was that war must cease; however, the Napikwans did not honor the treaty and it is impossible to avoid war if their enemies continue to insult the Pikunis. It has been three winters since the last war, when Fox Eyes made his enemy, White Grass, cry as he killed him. Since then, Fox Eyes has been feared by the people.
The Pikunis’ refusal to stop warring is evidence of their resistance against the Napikwans. This resistance represents the Pikunis’ determination to continue their traditional lifestyle despite the pressure of the Napikwans to do otherwise.
Fox Eyes prays to the Above Ones for all his warriors to return home safe, and he tells the warriors that White Man’s Dog will ride in place of Yellow Kidney and draw first blood. Fox Eyes thinks back to killing White Grass. He had hated him when he killed him, but now he is regretful. Fox Eyes has lost his “desire to make his enemies pay,” and he wants now only to live his life in peace. Yet, he knows that this is not how it is done.
Like White Man’s Dog, Fox Eyes struggles with the concept of war. He has been deeply affected by war and has lost his taste for violence, but he continues because it is expected of him. Furthermore, considering White Man’s Dog’s own regret over killing the young Crow night-rider, drawing first blood will be difficult for him.
A warrior who had been scouting the Crow territories gives an account of the enemy camps, and Fox Eyes can tell by the warriors’ banter that they are ready for battle. He tells them that they will punish Bull Shield. “His is the head that will be cut off so that our friend Yellow Kidney may sleep well in his lodge,” he says.
Fox Eyes’s outward behavior does not match his inner turmoil. He keeps up the expected façade of a fierce and courageous warrior.
On the fourth day, just as the party arrives north of the Elk River, White Man’s Dog looks to the Day Star and thinks that it is very bright. The sky then begins to turn gray, the Day Star becoming a “dark ball with just a rim of glowing gold.” All around looks like dusk, and the coyotes begin to howl. This lasts for just a moment before the sun begins again to “grow fire wings.” White Man’s Dog remembers his grandfather telling him of such a thing. He once saw the sun hide its face, and a few days later, the great chief of the Siksikas was trampled by blackhorns after being thrown from his horse.
White Man’s Dog the others witness a solar eclipse, and their understanding of this event, like most things, is rooted in their ancestors’ stories. The death of the chief will forever be connected to this phenomenon, and this also parallels the Pikunis profound connection to their natural surroundings.
Crow Foot calls the sign a catastrophe, and Rides-at-the-door says it cannot be ignored. Another chief suggests that they keep going—they have come too far to turn back now. A scout rides in from the valley, and Fox Eyes goes to meet him. White Man’s Dog notices that the scout is Eagle Ribs. He looks to Running Fisher, who is obviously frightened. “A-wah-heh,” says White Man’s Dog. “Take courage, brother.”
In this moment, Running Fisher permanently loses his courage, and White Man’s Dog’s steadiness begins his brother’s resentment of him. Running Fishers extreme fear is a product of his deep spirituality. Because he believes in Sun Chief, Running Fisher believes that his wrath is real as well.