Fools Crow — the Crow quotes with page numbers
“Not so lucky was White Man’s Dog. He had little to show for his eighteen winters. His father, Rides-at-the-door, had many horses and three wives. He himself had three horses and no wives. His animals were puny, not a blackhorn runner around them. He owned a musket and no powder and his animal helper was weak. Many times he had prayed to the Above Ones for stronger medicine but he knew that wasn’t the way. It was up to him, perhaps with the help of a many-faces man, to find his own power. ”
James Welch, Fools Crow, Chapter 1, Page 4
At the beginning of the novel, White Man’s Dog is seen as unlucky because he has not yet succeeded in gaining the wealth, status, and respect signified by having wives, horses, and powerful weapons. He feels like a failure because he has not yet established himself as a man in the community but knows that it is “up to him” to realize his potential. This quote reveals that the novel will focus on White Man’s Dog’s growth into maturity as he comes “to find his own power. ”
“He did not like to have an unlucky man on this trip. Bad luck, like the white-scabs disease, can infect others. ”
James Welch, The Crow Quotes, Chapter 3, Page 12
Yellow Kidney is concerned about White Man’s Dog’s reputation as an unlucky warrior who has so far failed to distinguish himself as warrior. He compares the young man’s “bad luck” to smallpox, the contagious disease brought by the Napikwans, implying that White Man’s Dog’s unluckiness could spread rapidly among the other men and cause their raid to go badly.
“He had been hearing around the camps of the Pikunis that Owl Child and his gang had been causing trouble with the Napikwans, driving away horses and cattle, and had recently killed a party of woodcutters near Many Horses fort.
It would only be a matter of time before the Napikwans sent their seizers to make war on the Pikunis. ”
James Welch, Fools Crow, Chapter 3, Page 16
Yellow Kidney believes that “Owl Child and his gang” are only making matters between the Pikunis and the Napikwans worse by killing white settlers and fears that the Napikwans will blame all Pikunis for Owl Child’s violence. Unfortunately, his fears are gradually realized as American policy becomes increasingly hostile toward the Pikunis and eventually leads to the massacre of Heavy Runner and his people, the band who wanted only peace and friendship with the Napikwans.
“He had many dreams of desire, he welcomed them, but this one was different. This one was a sign, and he didn’t know how to interpret it. He wanted to go to the white-faced girl but knew that there was danger in that direction. ”
James Welch, Chapter 3, Page 18
White Man’s Dog wonders if his recurring dream of the “white-faced girl” who beckons to him means their raid is in danger.
It later becomes clear that his dream foreshadows what will happen to Yellow Kidney; after being exposed by Fast Horse, Yellow Kidney hides in a lodge and rapes a “white-faced” girl who is dying of smallpox. In addition to being maimed by the Crows, Yellow Kidney contracts smallpox from the girl and nearly dies.
“In spite of his unlucky reputation, there was a steadiness, a calmness, in White Man’s Dog that Yellow Kidney liked. These were rare qualities in a young man on a first adventure. He can be trusted, thought Yellow Kidney. He will do well. ”
James Welch, Fools Crow, Chapter 4, Page 21
Yellow Kidney is one of the first people to recognize White Man’s Dog’s potential for greatness. Unlike Fast Horse, who is boastful and hotheaded, White Man’s Dog is steady and calm, traits that will serve him well during raids and battles.
By trusting White Man’s Dog to lead the horse-taking on the raid, Yellow Kidney gives the protagonist his first opportunity to demonstrate his abilities as a warrior and future leader to the Lone Eaters.
“He grew excited at the prospect, now that he had some wealth, of having his own lodge and his own woman. He would be his own man. ”
James Welch, The Crow Quotes, Chapter 5, Page 41
After succeeding in leading the other men on the raid on the Crow camps, White Man’s Dog begins to overcome his unlucky reputation. His success gives him the confidence to think about taking a wife and establishing his own lodge.
The raid thus represents the beginning of his development into a powerful warrior and respected member of his community
“Dream of all that has happened here today. Of all the two-leggeds, you alone will possess the magic of Skunk Bear. You will fear nothing, and you will have many horses and wives. ”
James Welch, The Crow Quotes, Chapter 6, Page 59
After learning from the animal spirit Raven that a “Skunk Bear” (wolverine) is trapped in a Napikwan trap far away in the mountains, the “many-faces man” Mik-api sends White Man’s Dog on a mission in the mountains to rescue the wolverine.
After White Man’s Dog releases the wolverine, Raven speaks these words to White Man’s Dog, promising him a successful future as a leader among the Pikunis and telling him that “the magic of Skunk Bear” is now with him. The rescue of the wolverine is significant, as Skunk Bear becomes White Man’s Dog’s animal spirit and appears to him at crucial moments in his development as a hero.
“He had become an outsider within his own band. He no longer sought the company of others, and they avoided him. The girls who had once looked so admiringly on him now averted their eyes when he passed.
The young men considered him a source of bad medicine, and the older ones did not invite him for a smoke. Even his own father had begun to look upon him with doubt and regret. ”
James Welch, Fools Crow, Chapter 8, Page 71
After the raid on the Crow horses, Fast Horse loses his status as one of the most popular and promising young warriors in the Lone Eaters band. Fast Horse’s sense of alienation from the Pikunis and desire for personal glory leads him to become increasingly attracted to Owl Child’s gang.
“In fornicating with the dying girl, I had taken her honor, her opportunity to die virtuously. And so Old Man, as he created me, took away my life many times and left me like this, worse than dead, to think of my transgression every day, to be reminded every time I attempt the smallest act that men take for granted. ”
James Welch, The Crow Quotes, Chapter 8, Page 82
Yellow Kidney sees his suffering—being humiliated at the hands of the Crows, having his fingers cut off by Bull Shield, and almost dying of smallpox—as punishment for raping the dying girl in the Crow camps. Because he no longer has fingers, every time he attempts a simple task he will be reminded of his “transgression. ”
Since Pikuni honor and masculinity depend on a man’s ability to hunt and fight, Yellow Kidney is essentially stripped of his honor in return for taking the honor of the dying girl.
“You carry that with you when you go into battle, and you sing this song: Wolverine is my brother, From Wolverine I take my courage, Wolverine is my brother, From Wolverine I take my strength, Wolverine Walks with me. You sing that loudly and boldly and you will never want for power. ”
James Welch, Fools Crow, Chapter 10, Page 120
During the Sun Ceremony, White Man’s Dog participates in a torture dance.
While he sleeps to recover from the ordeal, he dreams of Wolverine, who once again needs to be rescued. After releasing the animal, Wolverine tells White Man’s Dog that he will “never want for power” as long as he carries a white stone with him and sings a song honoring Wolverine when he goes into battle.
“Fools Crow. The naming ceremony. Three Bears had named him Fools Crow after hearing how he had tricked Bull Shield into thinking he was dead and then risen up to kill the Crow chief. ”
James Welch, Chapter 13, Page 153
These lines explain the origins of White Man’s Dog’s new name.
During the attack on the Crow camps, in retaliation for how they mutilated Yellow Kidney, White Man’s Dog is able to shoot Bull Shield, the longtime enemy of the Pikunis. Fools Crow realizes that his new name is not entirely accurate as he did not “fool” Bull Shield into thinking he was dead strategically; everything happened so quickly in the heat of battle that he hardly even knew he had killed the great chief until after it had happened.
“He had boasted to Yellow Kidney in the same manner that Fast Horse had boasted to the Crows the night Yellow Kidney was captured and mutilated.
He had belittled his father-in-law without thinking, and he knew Yellow Kidney had lost face forever. ”
James Welch, Fools Crow, Chapter 13, Pages 154-5
Fools Crow is ashamed of himself for bragging about killing Bull Shield because he knows he has behaved no better than Fast Horse did when his loud boasts alerted the Crows’ to Yellow Kidney’s presence in their camp. It was disgraceful to boast about taking down Bull Shield to Yellow Kidney because it highlights the fact that Yellow Kidney was incapable of getting revenge himself. Fools Crow blames his bad behavior on drinking too much “white man’s water,” which is becoming more common in Pikuni camps.
“More and more of the seizers who fought for Ka-ach-sino, the Great Grandfather, have moved out to our country. More come still. If we take the war road against the whites, we will sooner or later encounter great numbers of them. Even with many-shots guns we couldn’t hope to match their weapons. Or their cruelty. We have heard what they did to our old enemies, the Parted Hairs, on the Washita: rubbed them out. So too would they do to the Pikunis. We are nothing to them. It is this ground we stand on that they seek […] We are up against a force we cannot fight.
It is our children and their children we must think of now. ”
James Welch, The Crow Quotes, Chapter 15, Pages 179-180
When many young warriors suggest the Pikunis take a more aggressive stance toward the Napikwans, Rides-at-the-door warns that they cannot afford to go to war with white soldiers, as they have greater numbers and superior weapons. They have already seen how the whites are willing to wipe out entire tribes in their desire for more land. Although Rides-at-the-door does not like or trust the Napikwans, he believes the Pikunis have no choice but to negotiate and make peace with the seizers if they want their children to have a future.
“No, he was on his own and he liked it that way. Owl Child would make a name for himself that would make them all, Pikuni or Napikwan, tremble to hear. ”
James Welch, The Crow Quotes, Chapter 12, Page 211
Owl Child is thinking about how the Pikunis disapprove of his attempts to take revenge on the Napikwans for taking over their lands. The fact that Owl Child would rather isolate himself from his people to “make a name for himself” rather than comply with the Pikuni chiefs’ policy of tolerance toward the Napikwans shows how he is unwilling to sacrifice his personal need for glory and revenge for the sake of his community.
“These people have not changed, thought Kipp, but the world they live in has. You could look at it one of two ways: Either their world is shrinking, or that other world, the one the white man brought with him, is expanding. Either way, the Pikuni loses. And Kipp–well, Joe Kipp is somewhere in the middle–and has a job to do. ”
James Welch, The Crow Quotes, Chapter 22, Page 254
As he looks out on the Lone Eaters camp, Joe Kipp thinks about how the Pikunis will not be able to hold their own against the white settlers and soldiers who desire their lands. He senses that their way of life will die out as the whites continue to move into the west.
Although Kipp sympathizes with the Pikunis, he knows that he needs to fulfill the role given to him by the whites if he wants to survive the conflict himself.
“Sully’s moderate stance had already earned him a reputation as an ‘Indian lover’ with the territorial politicians, the press, and his fellow officers. Already the wheels were in motion for an action designed to punish the Blackfeet severely. This meeting could have made such an action unnecessary and, as an added benefit, would have enhanced Sully’s reputation as a man who brought peace to the northern plains.
But now he realized that that was not even true–the people of Montana Territory wanted not peace but punishment. They wanted to run these red Indians right off the face of the map, push them into Canada, or, failing that, kill them like wild animals. ”
James Welch, Chapter 24, Page 279
When some Pikuni leaders go to meet with the seizer chiefs, the narrative shifts to following the perspective of General Sully. Sully is dismayed by the small number of chiefs at the meeting because he knows that he will not be able to secure his demands without the cooperation of powerful but hostile chiefs like Mountain Chief.
He also realizes that sooner or later the people of Montana will demand that the army drive out the Blackfeet for their land and punish them for acts of aggression against the settlers. The negotiations that he is about to discuss with the Pikuni chiefs will therefore be virtually meaningless.
“It has never been my thought to bring trouble to the Pikunis. I scorn them for what they allow the Napikwans to get away with, but I do not wish them harm […] They are foolish, but I too am a Pikuni. ”
James Welch, Fools Crow, Chapter 25, Page 300
In talking to Fast Horse, Owl Child reveals that despite the fact that he has turned away from his people, he still considers himself a Pikuni. Although Owl Child plays the role of an antagonist for most of the novel, in this conversation, Owl Child reveals that he never intended the Pikunis to suffer because of his actions and claims to believe that he was really doing the right thing by retaliating against the whites. This moment allows the reader to sympathize with Owl Child and gain insight into the reasons that he took the approach that he did to the Napikwans.
“Honor is all we have, thought Rides-at-the-door, that and the blackhorns. Take away one or the other and we have nothing. One feeds us and the other nourishes us. ”
James Welch, The Crow Quotes, Chapter 32, Page 342
Rides-at-the-door thinks these words to himself as he is preparing to confront Kills-close-to-the-lake, and his younger son, Running Fisher, about their illicit relationship.
Although he is thinking about a crisis in his personal life, his words can be interpreted as referring to the plight of the Pikunis, as the white settlers are slowly killing off the buffalo and stripping the Pikunis of their lands and their traditions. While the blackhorns sustain them physically, honor sustains them emotionally.
“He had told himself many times that it was his failure to find the ice spring of Cold Maker that made everything go bad–and for a while he had come to believe it. Even when he betrayed Yellow Kidney in the Crow Camp, he felt that it was Cold Maker’s doing, his revenge on the party for continuing their raid after failing to find the ice spring. But now he knew that it was he, and he alone, who created the disaster that led to Yellow Kidney’s fall.
And it was he who brought Yellow Kidney’s body back to his people. ”
James Welch, Fools Crow, Chapter 30, Page 353
Although Fast Horse has tried to persuade himself that his disgraceful behavior on the raid and alienation from his band was caused by Cold Maker–forces outside his control –he now realizes that “he, and he alone” brought about Yellow Kidney’s ruination and his own disgrace; his boastfulness and need for personal glory was his undoing. Because he knows that he indirectly caused Yellow Kidney to be captured, Fast Horse recognizes that he has a duty to return Yellow Kidney’s body to the Lone Eaters.
“He had seen the end of the blackhorns and the starvation of the Pikunis. He had been brought here, to the strange woman’s lodge in this strange world, to see the fate of his people. And he was powerless to change it, for he knew the yellow skin spoke a truth far greater than his meager powers, than the power of all his people. ”
James Welch, Fools Crow, Chapter 33, Page 361
After Fools Crow is called away on a journey by Nitsokan, the dream helper, he experiences a vision in which he is shown the fate of his people as the Napikwans continue to take over their lands.
In addition to witnessing many of their people die from smallpox, he learns that the white settlers will kill all the buffalo, the animal that the Pikunis use as their main source of food.
“You can prepare them for the times to come. If they make peace within themselves, they will live a good life in the Sand Hills. There they will go on to live as they always have. ”
James Welch, The Crow Quotes, Chapter 33, Page 362
After his vision, Fools Crow feels defeated, as he knows that there is nothing that he can do to stop his people from dying from the violence, illness, and lack of game caused by the growing numbers of Napikwans.
However, Feather Woman tells him that he can still help his people by helping them to “make peace within themselves. ” Though many will die, they can still lead “a good life in the Sand Hills”; their traditions and values will be carried on in the afterlife.
“‘Much will be lost to them […] But they will know the way it was. 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. ’”
James Welch, Chapter 33, Page 361-362
Fools Crow’s vision shows him that future generations of Pikuni children will be forced to attend Napikwan schools and adopt their customs and manners of dress. When he expresses grief that these children will lose their heritage, Feather Woman promises him that these children will continue to hear stories of their ancestors and remain proud of their culture.
“It was the seizers. They sneaked up on us while we were asleep. There was only a little light, just enough to see by, and they shot us in our lodges. Pretty soon, our people were running in all directions and still they shot us.
Many of us are killed. ”
James Welch, The Crow Quotes, Chapter 35, Page 380
While out hunting, Fools Crow encounters a small group of children, women, and old people from Heavy Runner’s band. White Crane Woman, who has been shot in the leg, explains how white soldiers snuck up on their camp while they were sleeping and began to kill as many of them as possible. Since many of the men were away hunting, most of the people who died were women, children, and the elderly.
“He knew that she was here, someplace, watching him, watching the procession, and he saw her smile in the blue light and he smiled.
For even though he was, like Feather Woman, burdened with the knowledge of his people, their lives, and the lives of their children, he knew they would survive, for they were the chosen ones. ”
James Welch, Chapter 36, Page 392
Fools Crow thinks of Feather Woman and the vision that he received telling him what was to come for the Pikunis. Although they may lose their lands and their customs as the Napikwans continue to take over, she has promised him that they will live on in the in the afterlife, where everything will continue as it has always been for their people.
While they may not survive the violence and starvation to come, their way of life will survive in the stories passed down to future generations.
“Far from the fires of the camp, out on the rain-dark prairies, in the swales and washes, on the rolling hills, the rivers of great animals moved. Their backs were dark with rain and the rain gathered and trickled down their shaggy heads. Some grazed, some slept. Some had begun to molt. Their dark horns glistened in the rain as they stood guard over the sleeping calves. The blackhorns had returned, and, all around, it was as it should be. ”
James Welch, The Crow Quotes, Chapter 36, Page 393
In these final lines, Welch describes the blackhorns, the animals that sustain the Pikuni people, grazing in the distance. Now that the white-scabs disease has left the camp and the blackhorns are again nearby, it appears as if life for the Lone Eaters has gone back to normal.
Although the reader knows that this happiness will not last, the novel’s happy ending allows Welch to resist defining the history of the Blackfeet in Montana in terms of white Americans and the suffering they inflicted. He instead concludes his novel with a traditional celebration and an image of the buffalo grazing on the lands that they share with the Pikunis.