As the snow comes, Fast Horse packs his horse to leave the camp of the Lone Eaters for good. He has no desire to learn the Beaver Medicine bundle, and he has grown disillusioned with the Lone Eaters’ lifestyle. “There are easier ways of gaining wealth,” Fast Horse thinks. He will catch up with Owl Child and take revenge on the rancher who had shot him while he tried to steal his horses. Fast Horse is determined to “make the man die many times.”
When Fast Horse turns his back on the Beaver Medicine bundle, he turns his back on the Pikuni people as well. Instead of focusing on his people and their needs, Fast Horse is concerned with defending his honor and stealing horses. Fast Horse thinks only of himself.
Meanwhile, Fools Crow sits in Boss Ribs’s lodge and stares at the Beaver Medicine bundle. “[It] is the oldest and holiest of our medicines,” Boss Ribs says, and then he offers to tell Fools Crow the story of the Beaver Medicine.
Fools Crow stares at the bundle because he is deeply concerned with his people and their future considering the advancing Napikwans, and he is hoping to gain power to resist.
Boss Ribs tells Fools Crow about two orphan brothers, Akaiyan and Nopatsis. Akaiyan lived with Nopatsis and his wife, who grew tired of Akaiyan. She tore her clothes and slashed her legs and told her husband that Akaiyan attacked her. Nopatsis knew this was a lie, but he paddled his brother out to an island and left him there anyway.
Again, storytelling is at the center of Pikuni history and culture. The power of the bundle lies within its stories and its ability to preserve the Pikuni way of life through the history of the Pikuni people.
Akaiyan was convinced that he was going to die on the island, but he tried to make the best of it. He built shelter and hunted, but still it felt useless. He sat down and wept, and then a beaver approached and invited him into his den. Akaiyan met the beaver’s family and lived with them through the winter—they huddled around him and kept him warm.
Akaiyan’s relationship with the beaver family is further evidence of the Pikunis connection to nature. Again, the natural world responds to Akaiyan’s needs and nourishes and protects him.
Spring came and Nopatsis returned to the island to find his brother’s bones. Akaiyan waited in the bushes, and as soon as Nopatsis left in search of him, he jumped into the boat and paddled away. Later, Akaiyan returned to the island and found his brother’s bones.
Native American storytelling often involves a trickster—someone who relies on trickery or humor to overcome the trials of any given situation. The trickster is often saved by wit, not strength, just as Akaiyan is.
The beaver began to miss Akaiyan and went to him in a dream. The next day Akaiyan went to the island and brought the beaver back to his village, where the beaver taught Akaiyan the songs, dances, and prayers of his people and gave him a Sacred Pipe to put in a bundle. Akaiyan invited all the four-legs, flyers, and underwater swimmers to add power to the bundle. Each spring he returned to the beaver, who would place a new item into the bundle. Akaiyan gave the bundle to his son before he died, and it has been handed down ever since.
Akaiyan’s connection to the beaver and his family is symbolic of the Pikunis’ connection to nature as a whole. The stories of the bundle are also the stories of the animals, and in this way Pikunis and the animals are again one and the same.
After Boss Ribs finishes the story, he begs Fools Crow to find Fast Horse. “Find him and bring him back,” Boss Ribs says. “I will begin to instruct him in the ways of the Beaver Medicine. He will learn that it is his destiny as well as his duty. Tell him his father begs him, his people beg him.” Fools Crow agrees.
Despite Boss Ribs’s disappointment in his son’s choices, he still holds out hope that he will choose his people instead of his individual desires.