Fools Crow is confused and stares at the woman, and then, suddenly, he understands. “Feather Woman!” he yells. He says that he thought she had died in mourning. Feather Woman confirms that this is true, but instead of going to the Shadowland, Sun Chief had sent her here to mourn for eternity. Each day Sun sends her husband and son to her in the sky so that she is forever reminded of her transgression.
Feather Woman’s mourning for all of eternity is evidence of the Pikunis’ patriarchal culture. Feather Woman alone shoulders the blame for the suffering of her people, and this reflects her own powerlessness at the hands of Sun Chief, the ultimate patriarch.
Feather Woman begins to tell Fools Crow her story. One morning, she went out to dig turnips after her mother-in-law, Red Night Light, had warned her not to disturb the sacred turnip. She promised she wouldn’t, but as the day wore on, she was compelled to it and started digging. The turnip proved too difficult to dig up on her own, but two cranes flying overhead stopped to help. This time, the turnip popped up, creating a hole in the sky.
When Feather Woman created the hole in the sky, it was like opening Pandora’s box. Because of the hole, disease, hunger, and suffering were born, and her people would forever suffer the consequences. Feather Woman mourns not only her husband and son, but the Pikuni people as well.
Back on earth, Feather Woman rejected her people and died of a broken heart. Her transgression had caused her misery, and her people would suffer too. Now there is sickness, hunger, war, and Napikwans, and the people do not mourn her. Fools Crow tells her that she should be proud of her son, Poia—he has given the people the summer ceremony, after all—but she doesn’t respond. Feather Woman unrolls the yellow hide and walks away.
Fools Crow is thankful that Poia’s own suffering has given them the summer ceremony.
Fools Crow looks to the yellow hide and again sees nothing. Suddenly, a faint picture begins to take shape. Fools Crow sees lodges and horses and whiteness, and suddenly the horses begin to move. The scene becomes clear and he knows that he is looking at the camps of the Pikuni. The white-scabs disease has struck the camps, and his heartbroken people mourn. Then, just as quickly as the scene appeared, it fades from view.
Again, the mention of whiteness infuses the scene with a sense of dread, and the hide reveals the Lone Eaters’ outbreak of the white-scabs disease. Feather Woman’s hide has begun to reveal to Fools Crow the end of the Pikuni people.
A new scene begins to form on the hide, and Fools Crow sees the shapes of riders and horses. The figures ride through a snowy valley and he recognizes it as a place north of the country of the Pikunis. The riders are seizers and there are hundreds of them. They carry many-shots guns, and near the front, Fools Crow recognizes Joe Kipp. Fools Crow wonders where they are headed as the scene begins to fade.
Here, the seizers are on their way to annihilate Heavy Runner’s camp with the help of Joe Kipp as retaliation for Owl Child’s murder of Malcolm Clark. Heavy Runner and his camp are not hostile, and the seizers know this, but they attack the civilian camp anyway.
Another scene appears. Fools Crow is staring at the land of the Lone Eaters’ camp, only the camp is not there. The land is empty, and as he looks around, Fools Crow realizes that there are no animals there—it was as if “the earth had swallowed them.” He sees a square building, and it seems out of place in the landscape. It is like the Four Horns agency, only it is farther north, near Pikuni lands. Many sad people are huddled outside. Fools Crow does not recognize them.
This scene represents the Napikwans theft of Pikuni lands. There are no animals because the Napikwans have run them off in order to raise their whitehorn cattle. The square building is a new boarding school on the Lone Eaters’ land, and the sad people are assimilated Pikunis. Sadly, Fools Crow does not recognize his own people.
Near the entrance to the building, Fools Crow sees a horse and wagon pulling several wooden boxes. He suspects that the boxes hold dead bodies, but he doesn’t know why they died. A woman exits the building carrying a bucket full of guts, and two women follow her. One of the women reaches into the bucket and pulls out a handful of intestines. He recognizes the woman with the bucket as Little Bird Woman, the girl his mother had wanted him to marry. She holds the bucket close and walks away.
The boxes represent the countless coffins required to carry off the Pikuni people. When it is all said and done, and the dust settles on the Napikwans’ westward expansion, the Pikuni death toll will be unimaginable, and the hide reveals this end to Fools Crow as well.
The scene disappears, and Fools Crow thinks that he has seen enough. Once more, a new picture begins to form, and he finds himself staring at a long Napikwan building. He can see inside, and it is filled with children playing and laughing. Outside, more children play, and off to one side stands a small group of dark-skinned children. They wear clothing like the Napikwans and their hair is cut short. The building and the children are surrounded by fencing and barbed-wire, and beyond them, the hills of the plains stretch indefinitely.
This is perhaps the most disturbing of the images. Here, Fools Crow sees one of many Indian boarding schools where Blackfeet children are turned into Napikwans. The fencing and barbed-wire represents their relative imprisonment, and the native children stand away from the white children because they are treated as outsiders. Their distance from the white children represents their continued marginalization within society.
“You have seen something,” says Feather Woman. Fools Crow confirms and says that his hope is “futile.” There is nothing he can do for his people now. “I grieve for our children,” says Fools Crow. “They will not know the life their people once lived.” Feather Woman disagrees. They will know, she says. “The stories will be handed down, and they will see that their people were proud and lived in accordance with the Below Ones, the Underwater People—and the Above Ones.” While this is true, Fools Crow still can’t help but think that they are being punished.
Feather Woman’s reminder that there is power in their stories reflects the sacred nature of storytelling within Pikuni culture. As long as Pikuni stories are told and their spirituality—that is nature—is observed and respected, the Pikuni way of life will continue. Fools Crow is not as helpless to save his people as he first assumes.