Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 417
Fools Crow is set in the Two Medicine Territory of Montana after the Civil War in 1870. It tells a story of a non-reservation Indian way of life and how it is slowly fading due to invasion by white society. It begins with the Marias Massacre of 1870, where US...
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- Critical Essays
Fools Crow is set in the Two Medicine Territory of Montana after the Civil War in 1870. It tells a story of a non-reservation Indian way of life and how it is slowly fading due to invasion by white society. It begins with the Marias Massacre of 1870, where US cavalry attack and kill a band of Blackfeet, led by Heavy Runner. This novel portrays White Man's Dog, later called Fools Crow, as a young Blackfeet Indian with his band of the Lone Eaters, a Pikunis Blackfeet Indian tribe. They adapt to a changing society and face the fact that their traditional way of life is fading. They are an Indian brotherhood where the men hunt and protect their loved ones. The women take care of their young while tanning hides and sewing beadwork. The Pikunis face smaller numbers of buffalo, as well as persecution as the Anglo people take over the land.
White Man's Dog is a warrior and medicine man who wants to protect his people, the Lone Eaters tribe. He is also protecting his people from another tribe, the Crows. Led by Yellow Kidney, the Lone Eaters tribe fight and take horses from the Crows. After killing the Crows' chief, Bull Shield, White Man's Dog earns the title of "Fools Crow" and becomes widely respected. Later, the tribe learns that Yellow Kidney, a Pikuni warrior, is captured and tortured by the Crows.
General Sully leads the Indians in Montana, and he asks for the Lone Eaters' assistance in negotiating a new relationship between the Napikwans, the white settlers, and the Pikunis. The Pikunis assist the American army in capturing Owl Child, a Pikuni rebel, and they return all horses stolen from the Napikwans. Shortly thereafter, Fools Crow is told in a dream to go on a seven-day quest. In his dream, he sees his people dying from smallpox and starvation or being killed by white men.
Fools Crow and his tribe later go out hunting and come across a killing of many of Heavy Runner's tribe. They find eight wounded Pikunis there but also see bodies of their fellow Pikunis' men, women, and children who have been burned or shot to death.
The young boy Fools Crow transitions into a brave warrior, healer, and leader of the Pikunis. Although his people are burdened with change, he knows they have to fight for their existence. Fools Crow knows that the Lone Eaters tribe's customs, ceremonies, and spiritual way of life can eventually pass to future Indian generations.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 876
White Man’s Dog, an unlucky youth of the Lone Eaters band of Pikuni Blackfeet, is invited by his friend Fast Horse to join a winter horse-riding party on the Crow camp, to be led by the wise warrior Yellow Kidney. Most of the men are young and inexperienced; Yellow Kidney watches Fast Horse carefully, believing him to be too boastful and reckless.
Once at the great Crow camp of Bull Shield, White Man’s Dog and three others are able to separate more than a hundred horses from the large herd and safely escape with them. Only Yellow Kidney, who with Fast Horse went into the camp to steal the powerful horses of the Crow chiefs, fails to return. Fast Horse reports that he last saw Yellow Kidney in the camp, and they fear he is dead.
After a period of mourning, Yellow Kidney’s wife requests that she be allowed to be the Sacred Vow Woman for the next Sun Dance ceremony. She offers this sacrifice to ensure the safe return of her husband. Meanwhile, White Man’s Dog, gaining courage and power with the help of the healer Mik-api, supplies her family with meat and prepares to marry her daughter.
Months later, a weak and mutilated Yellow Kidney returns to the Lone Eaters camp. He relates how the Crows captured him after being alerted by the loud, foolish boasts of Fast Horse. Bull Shield cut off Yellow Kidney’s fingers, a humiliation that will prevent him from hunting and providing for his family ever again. Then he was tied to a horse and sent into the snow. He was found and cared for by the Spotted Horse (Cheyenne) people. When the Lone Eaters council hears Yellow Kidney’s story, they agree to banish Fast Horse for his lies and for causing harm to come to this brave warrior. Fast Horse flees to a renegade band of Pikuni raiders headed by Owl Child.
The Pikunis mass to send a war party of three hundred to avenge the mutilation of Yellow Kidney and punish Bull Shield. White Man’s Dog has the honor of striking the enemy first on behalf of his father-in-law Yellow Kidney, and he manages to kill and scalp Bull Shield. His exploits earn him a new name, Fools Crow. His brother Running Fisher, on the other hand, loses courage and spirit.
A wounded Fast Horse returns to the Lone Eaters camp, gut-shot by a white settler he attacked. Fast Horse’s father urges Fools Crow to speak with him, and when a sullen Fast Horse leaves the camp again, Fools Crow is sent after his friend to convince him to return. Fools Crow knows his attempt will be useless because Fast Horse refuses to accept responsibility for his betrayal of Yellow Kidney. Meanwhile, Yellow Kidney, who sees himself now as a nothing-man, determines to leave the camp and return to the Spotted Horse people. While he rests in an empty war lodge, he is found and killed by a vengeful white man in retaliation for the murders committed by Owl Child and his raiders.
A scout arrives at the Lone Eaters camp to call the chiefs to a council with the seizer (United States Army) chiefs. Most of the Pikuni chiefs refuse to attend. Only the peace chief Heavy Runner, a good man but too trusting, and three others agree to go, along with Fools Crow’s father, Rides-at-the-door, who understands English and is asked to speak for the Lone Eaters. The seizer general is not pleased that so few come to this council, and he makes demands that the chiefs know they cannot meet. Heavy Runner agrees not to make war upon the whites, but when the men’s societies’ chiefs meet afterward, they are unable to decide what to do.
Fools Crow fears that his people are helpless. Nitsokan, Dream Helper, tells him to journey for three days and three nights without stopping, in a quest for answers. When he comes to a strange valley between sky and earth, he finds Feather Woman, a figure from Pikuni legend. Her marriage to Morning Star, the child of Sun and Moon, resulted in the birth of her son Scarface, who brought the Sun Dance ceremony to the Pikunis. Feather Woman dug a sacred turnip out of the sky, creating a hole, so she was banished to this place, where she mourns for her lost husband and son.
For Fools Crow, she paints prophetic scenes upon a yellow skin—visions of the fate of his people. Feather Woman tells him that he can aid them best by preparing them for the hard times to come. When he returns, the dreaded white-scabs (smallpox) invades the Lone Eaters camp, and he struggles to help the sick.
After two weeks, those men who are still healthy ride out in search of meat. They meet eight wounded Pikunis, survivors of Heavy Runner’s peaceful band, which was attacked by the seizers. Fools Crow goes on alone to the massacred camp to witness the horribly burned bodies. This becomes his role, knowing that, like Feather Woman, he is “burdened with the knowledge of his people.” He also knows from his visions that his people will ultimately survive.