In the moon of the first thunder, Mik-api sits in his lodge alone. He thinks of his late wife and the time he has spent with the Lone Eaters. He is sure that he will not live to see another winter. A young warrior sticks his head in the lodge. “It is time,” he says.
A new moon suggests a clean slate, and with the passage of time, there is a renewed sense of optimism.
Mik-api removes the Thunder Pipe from a bundle and unwraps it. He says a prayer to the Above Ones, the Below Ones, and the Underwater People, then he fills the pipe with tobacco and smokes to the four directions. After a long ceremony of songs, he prays for the good health of the people and steps out of the lodge.
Mik-api’s ceremony and songs are a reflection of the connection between Pikuni spirituality and the natural world. Mik-api prays to the stars and the animals, and he smokes to the four directions to center himself within his natural surroundings.
A procession begins with Mik-api at the front. Fools Crow and Red Paint, with a cradleboard on her back, wait to join. The elders join next, including Rides-at-the-door and Double Strike Woman, and One Spot falls in as well. As the procession moves through camp drumming and singing, their voices get louder.
The procession’s loud voices reflect their excitement to move and carry on the Pikuni way of life. Their movement implies that they will not surrender to the Napikwans.
As the procession moves along, they “manage a grave dignity.” Only those too old or frail to make the journey remain in the camp. As thunder rolls in the distance, Fools Crow thinks of Feather Woman, and he knows that she is watching. As they walk, he “knows that they will survive, for they are the chosen ones.”
The Pikunis are down, but they are not out. Presumably, the Pikunis are headed north to the Siksikas where they will be able to carry on their way of life to the best of their abilities for a while longer. Their trouble with the Napikwans has only begun, but they are determined to survive.
In the distance and all around, animals move in the dark. The animals sleep and eat, and molt and guard their young. Even “the blackhorns have returned, and, all around, it was as it should be.”
The animals in the distance are a reflection of the Pikuni people and their deep connection to nature and animals. As long as the animals thrive, the people live as well.