The day before the Lone Eaters are to leave for the trading house, Fast Horse sits staring at his father’s Beaver Medicine bundle, hoping to feel its power. Boss Ribs has not yet taught his son the songs and rituals associated with the bundle, and its power is “immense.” Since the raid, Fast Horse has become an outcast; the others avoid him and consider him a “source of bad medicine.”
Fast Horse’s attempt to feel the Beaver Medicine bundle’s power implies that he finds some value in Pikuni beliefs and culture; however, he is unwilling to put in the work. There is much to learn from the bundle’s stories, but Fast Horse desires power that is easier to access—like robbing and killing Napikwans with Owl Child.
Fast Horse “scoffs at Cold Maker.” Days earlier, he had challenged Cold Maker to kill him and even sang his death song, but nothing happened. Fast Horse feels a growing hate for his people, and he believes that only Owl Child has true power and courage. Suddenly, Fast Horse is distracted by commotion outside.
Cold Maker’s failure to strike Fast Horse dead has a negative impact on his spirituality. Fast Horse believes he deserves to die for disrespecting Cold Maker and causing Yellow Kidney’s capture, and when he doesn’t, Fast Horse turns his back on his spirituality, and his people.
A figure rides into the Lone Eater camp on a scarred and scrawny white horse. The figure takes off his robe—it is Yellow Kidney, holding up fingerless hands. Yellow Kidney quickly begins to tell his story. When he entered the Crow camp on the night of the raid, he easily found Bull Shield’s buffalo-runner, and the animal was eager to go with him. As he made his way through town, he heard a voice speaking his language yell: “Oh, you Crows are puny, your horses are puny, and your women make me sick! If I had time I would ride among you and cut of your puny woman heads, you cowardly Crows.”
Eagle Ribs’s dream of the pale horse, or death horse, is realized in Yellow Kidney’s return astride the decrepit white horse. However, Yellow Kidney’s fingerless condition is a fate far worse than death—he won’t be able to hunt or provide for his family, and he will be forced to watch them suffer and know that he has caused their pain. Living out the rest of his life in despair is not worth the value of the horses Yellow Kidney gained from the raid.
The crowd looks to Eagle Ribs, but Yellow Kidney says that it was not his voice. They look for Fast Horse, and he is nowhere to be found. Yellow Kidney continues his story and tells them that he quickly let the horse go and hid in a tipi. It was dimly lit by a fire, and bodies lined the walls. A young girl stood up and Yellow Kidney slipped beneath her robes. When the Crow searched the tipi, they did not find him.
Yellow Kidney’s experience in the dimly lit lodge mirrors White Man’s Dog’s dream about the white-faced girl. Like Eagle Ribs’s own dream, it foretells the future, although neither are fully understood until after the fact. White Man’s Dog rightfully suspected that his dream was indicative of danger.
The tipi was cold, yet the girl was hot, and Yellow Kidney found himself aroused. He raped her, although he found it difficult because she was not yet a woman. When he realized that she never moved, he removed her robes and discovered that she was covered with white-scabs disease. “My dream! My dream!” yells White Man’s Dog.
Yellow Kidney views the young girl as simply another part of war. She is something to conquer and own, and as a warrior, Yellow Kidney assumes power over her. Of course, his actions have disastrous consequences, and this is the danger White Man’s Dog sensed in his dream.
Yellow Kidney tells them that he ran out of the tipi and was shot in the thigh by the Crow. They meant to scalp him, but Bull Shield stopped them and instead cut off each of his fingers as a warning to other Pikunis. They tied him to the back of the scrawny horse and turned him loose. Yellow Kidney says that he was later found by Spotted Horse People, whose medicine woman kindly cared for him. She saw him through the red sores of the white-scabs disease and managed his amputated fingers.
Again, Native Americans frequently view the hair as a physical extension of the spirit, and scalping an enemy disrupts the spirit’s journey to the afterlife. Ironically, after Yellow Kidney so thoroughly disrespects and assaults the young girl, it is a woman who treats him with kindness and essentially saves his life.
Now, Yellow Kidney is a disgraced and ruined warrior. He tells the crowd that living in this broken state is his atonement for violating “the simplest decencies by which people live.” He had taken the young girl’s honor and robbed her of the opportunity to die with virtue. Old Man is punishing Yellow Kidney by making him live a life worse than death.
Through Yellow Kidney’s rape of the young girl and his subsequent punishment for stealing her virtue, Welch condemns the gaining of patriarchal power through war. Yellow Kidney was not justified in his assault of the girl, and his punishment is proof of this.
As the crowd disperses, Three Bears approaches Rides-at-the-door. The chief noticed White Man’s Dog leaving in the middle of Yellow Kidney’s story, and he wants to know why. Rides-at-the-door is ashamed that White Man’s Dog left the story, but he doesn’t know why he left. Three Bears and Rides-at-the-door fear that some may seek revenge on Fast Horse for Yellow Kidney’s misfortune. Both men think that Fast Horse should be banished; however, they pity his father, Boss Ribs. Three Bears orders Rides-at-the-door to convince Boss Ribs to banish Fast Horse himself for “the good of his people—and for the safety of his son.”
Through Fast Horse’s banishment, Welch argues the importance of native community and the collective good of the tribe. Three Bears and Rides-at-the-door appreciate how difficult it will be on Boss Ribs to banish his own son, but his personal desires must come second to the good to the tribe. Fast Horse’s presence poses a threat to tribal life, and as such, he must be eliminated.