Fools Crow

Fools Crow

by

James Welch

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Fools Crow: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day, the men camp at the foot of Woman Don’t Walk Butte and Eagle Ribs goes out to scout for enemy war parties. Yellow Kidney, who is beginning to feel his thirty-eight winters, rests while the younger men go in search of Fast Horse’s ice spring. As Sun Chief washes the hills in light, Yellow Kidney offers a prayer of thanks for the pleasant day and for Night Red Light’s glow, which had eased their nighttime travels. Despite how useful this light has been, Yellow Kidney knows that it will work to their disadvantage when they reach the Crow camp.
Welch’s references to Sun Chief, or the sun, and Night Red Light, the moon, are evidence of Pikuni spirituality, which is often called on to explain the natural world. The sun doesn’t simply rise and set in a continuous cycle; it is a blessing from Sun Chief, a principal deity in Pikuni culture. Similarly, Night Red Light (Sun Chief’s wife) blesses the party with moonlight to travel by at night. When the party’s circumstances change and they are no longer desirous of this light, it will become a curse.
Themes
Spirituality and the Natural World Theme Icon
Yellow Kidney still questions Fast Horse’s dream. He thinks that the young man is foolish, and Yellow Kidney only allowed him to come on the raid because he has great respect for Fast Horse’s father, Boss Ribs, a powerful heavy-singer-for-the-sick who possesses a Beaver Medicine bundle. Only three bundles exist among the Blackfeet tribes; the one possessed by Boss Ribs, and two others kept by the Kainahs and Siksika people. 
Interestingly, it is only Yellow Kidney and Fast Horse who doubt Fast Horse’s dream—and the raid ultimately leads to their downfall. White Man’s Dog, however, takes the dream very seriously (he even makes offerings to Cold Maker’s daughters when Fast Horse fails to do so), and the raid marks the beginning of his strength and good fortune in war.
Themes
Dreams, Visions, and Storytelling Theme Icon
The men return without finding the ice spring and Fast Horse grows morose. Yellow Kidney can sense that even Fast Horse doubts his dream, and Yellow Kidney prays to Cold Maker to take pity on them. He doesn’t trust Fast Horse, and he fears that the raid will go wrong, so he decides that he will turn the party back at the first sign of trouble or bad luck. Surprisingly, despite White Man’s Dog’s reputation for being unlucky, Yellow Kidney is encouraged by his steadiness and calmness.
Ironically, it is the “unlucky” White Man’s Dog who serves as a source of good luck to the raiding party. His competence during the raid despite his low social standing underscores the obvious problems in finding one’s personal worth in their material possessions. White Man’s Dog is poor yet invaluable on the raid. Fast Horse, for all intents and purposes, is rich and has the power of the Beaver Medicine, yet he is of little value during the raid. 
Themes
War Theme Icon
After four more days, the men rest in the valley of the Elk River, near a Napikwan trading fort. Many Crows trade there among Spotted Horse People and Parted Hairs. The tribes are not usually peaceful, but the white traders make them get along and refuse to trade if there is violence. The men are only two sleeps away from the Crow camps, and Yellow Kidney tells Eagle Ribs his plan to take the camp of Bull Shield, the Crow chief, and steal his buffalo-runner
Yellow Kidney’s desire to take the camp of Bull Shield is evidence of his greed. It would be much easier and safer for the Lone Eaters to take a different camp—other warriors are sure to have fine horses too—but Yellow Kidney wants to hit the chief, thereby securing the best horse and proving himself to be a great warrior. Yellow Kidney acts in his own best interest and ignores the needs of the group, and he is made to suffer greatly after he is captured by the Crows.
Themes
The Individual vs. the Collective Good  Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
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Meanwhile, White Man’s Dog examines a small pouch of yellow pigment given to him by Mik-api. Before setting out on their journey, the many-faces man had invited White Man’s Dog and Fast Horse to his sweat lodge. The men sang and prayed as the purifying sweat exited their bodies, and White Man’s Dog felt the bad spirit leave his body. Afterward, the men had smoked to the four directions and to the Above Ones, the Below Ones, and the Underwater People, and Mik-api gave White Man’s Dog the yellow paint, claiming that it would bring him strength and cunning during the raid.
Mik-api’s ceremony is another reflection of Pikuni spirituality. White Man’s Dog and Mik-api smoke to the four directions to center themselves within their environment, and their prayers to the stars and animals underscore their appreciation of the natural world. White Man’s Dog associates the yellow pigment, or war paint, Mik-api gives him with this ceremony. In essence, White Man’s Dog’s strength is in his spirituality.
Themes
War Theme Icon
Spirituality and the Natural World Theme Icon
As Eagle Ribs scouts the area, he sees the Napikwan tents in the distance surrounded by traders’ wagons. White men didn’t usually come to the Crows to trade—usually the Crows go to the trading houses. Eagle Ribs can tell that there is much white man’s water being passed around the camp, and he is glad that the Crow will be clumsy and slow; however, he worries that the traders’ wagons mean that there will be many new rifles in the camp.
The fact that the Napikwans don’t usually come to Crow lands to trade is evidence of their increasing presence on native lands. The white traders use their modern luxuries and conveniences to gain safe entrance to the land. Much like planting crops and cattle, the Napikwans gain control of the native people through introducing a dependence on alcohol and firearms. 
Themes
Colonialism and Western Expansion Theme Icon
Yellow Kidney is becoming infected with the nerves of the other men. The younger men are nervous about Yellow Kidney’s plan to attack Bull Shield, and he is beginning to doubt his ability to lead them. Still, Yellow Kidney is thankful for the clouds coming in from the north; the clouds will block Night Red Light’s glow and ease their movements within the Crow camp. 
 The natural world responds to Yellow Kidney’s needs, and this highlights his connection to nature. If Night Red Light is bright in the sky when the Lone Eaters enter the Crows’ camp, it will be difficult to remain undetected.
Themes
The Individual vs. the Collective Good  Theme Icon
Spirituality and the Natural World Theme Icon
Meanwhile, White Man’s Dog readies himself for the raid. He dips his fingers into the yellow paint just as Mik-api had taught him and prays to Sun Chief. He vows to sacrifice before the Medicine Pole at the next Sun Dance if the raid is successful, and he quietly sings his war song. Yellow Kidney too paints his face in the pattern of Seven Persons, and Fast Horse ties three eagle feathers in his topknot.
White Man’s Dog’s vow to Sun Chief is significant because he later fulfills this vow at the Summer ceremony, where he gives thanks to Sun Chief and begs forgiveness for his transgressions. Yellow Kidney’s own spirituality is likewise reflected in his facial paint—he too is guided by the heavenly body represented by Big Dipper. 
Themes
Spirituality and the Natural World Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Yellow Kidney and the other men are distracted by Fast Horse’s shirt—it is the old war shirt once belonging to Head Carrier and it holds much power. Fast Horse’s father had recently purchased the shirt, which seemed strange since the heavy-singer-for-the-sick does not war, but now Yellow Kidney understands that perhaps Boss Ribs gave his son the shirt to bring protection to them all.
Fast Horse’s strength and spirituality is lacking compared to White Man’s Dog and Yellow Kidney. Instead of finding power in a religious deity, he relies on the power of the famed warrior’s shirt. Boss Ribs seems to suspect that his son’s true power, or spirituality, is rather weak. Fast Horse wants more tangible power, and Head Carrier’s war shirt is an example of this.
Themes
Spirituality and the Natural World Theme Icon
With Night Red Light shining through the clouds and Seven Persons at its highest point, the party makes their way toward the Crow camp. Yellow Kidney points out the Crow horses and instructs White Man’s Dog to take the other young warriors down to the valley and secure as many horses as they can safely drive. He tells him to take only the strong horses and to drive them to Black Face and down to Woman Don’t Walk where they will meet after the raid.
White Man’s Dog easily steals the Crows’ horses largely undetected. Overall, his horse raid is successful, and Seven Persons’ highest point in the sky reflects this success. Yellow Kidney, on the other hand, waits for Seven Persons to begin to fade before raiding the camp, and his mission goes tragically wrong.
Themes
Spirituality and the Natural World Theme Icon
For the first time, White Man’s Dog feels the responsibility of his charge and he orders the younger men down the valley where there are over one hundred horses. There are no night-riders, and White Man’s Dog easily selects and secures only the strongest horses and drives them out of the valley.
White Man’s Dog’s ease with the horses implies his connection with nature and animals. The horses are comfortable with White Man’s Dog because he is one with them. 
Themes
Spirituality and the Natural World Theme Icon
Suddenly, a night-rider comes down the valley and White Man’s Dog fears that they will be discovered stealing the horses. He approaches the rider in the darkness, and catching him unaware, White Man’s Dog jumps onto the rider and stabs him deep in the back with his knife. After killing the young rider, White Man’s Dog rejoins his party and heads towards Black Face. It is beginning to snow.
The killing of the young night-rider haunts White Man’s Dog for the rest of the novel. He is convinced he has no choice in the matter—the night-rider will alert the other Crows to the Lone Eaters presence—but White Man’s Dog never forgives himself for taking the rider’s life, and in this way, Welch implies the immorality of war. 
Themes
War Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Yellow Kidney, Fast Horse, and Eagle Ribs ready themselves to enter the Crow camp. They plan to each go their separate ways, steal a buffalo-runner, and head to Woman Don’t Walk Butte to meet White Man’s Dog and the others with the horses. As Fast Horse an Eagle Ribs head off in different directions, Yellow Kidney prays to the Above Ones for strength and quietly sings his death song.
 Yellow Kidney’s death song foreshadows his capture and subsequent torture by the Crows. Presumably, had he not made the fateful decision to rape the young girl, he would have been killed during the raid and died honorably in war.
Themes
War Theme Icon