Chapter 1

The Lakota hunter squats in the blackness beside his favorite wife’s tipi. Covered entirely by his huge buffalo robe, he slowly straightens one powerful leg, then the other, resettles himself under the hairy mantel like a bird on its roost, and resumes his vigil.

Just then, he rips the hide from his ear and scopes his head around in the darkness. A dusting of snow shakes down his neck and melts against his hot skin, snapping him awake. His pupils stretch wide to catch any movement in the darkness. The cold needles his nose and his eyes. He blinks-then sniffs the north wind rushing to him over miles of rolling prairie. He breathes in the sound to his solar plexus. The vibration doubles back from his gut-sparking along his nerve senses, careening into the sound that hits his eardrum from without. The faint flip-flap of fringe against deerskin is unmistakable thirty yards to his right. The energy flashes to his brain. Without seeing, the hunter sees.

The attacker is so close the hunter can feel him panting now. His mouth goes dry. Through thin lips he sips the frigid air, calming the flutter in his gut. Then, a form darker than the night looms into view three or four strides to his right, coming at full speed-straight toward him.

In one smooth movement the hunter stands, shifts to his left and slips his buffalo robe from his shoulders. He thrusts it out at arm’s length like a matador before a charging bull.

Unable to check its forward progress, the juggernaut collapses into the outstretched hide and then onto the snow-covered ground. He is followed immediately by the hunter who leaps upon the squirming mass-trying to subdue it.

“Blood On His Nose! Blood On His Nose!” comes the muffled cry from under the thick robe.

“Wumpa,” the hunter mutters as he quickly backs off his nephew. Standing up, he bellows:

Kuwapi Heech!”

At the sound of his uncle calling his name, the boy freezes under the hide-ashamed. He half hopes he will sink into the ground with the snow that is starting to melt under him and disappear.

I have behaved like a child, he thinks to himself. Certainly not like a young man who has already been hanblecheyapi-crying for a vision-or one who is ready to go on his first real hunt. After all, Chased By Owls is now seven winters old.

He asks his uncle’s forgiveness from beneath the robe:

“Akici kto jo.”

“Hau,” Blood On His Nose says yes, but still the boy does not show himself.

“You run as befits your name, Heech, but I see no owls chasing you,” Blood On His Nose softens, making reference to the boy’s name, hoping to cajole him into showing himself and revealing why he is in such a hurry. The boy remains quiet until his uncle prods him hard with his foot.

Immediately, Chased By Owls blurts, “Standing Rock wants you to come to the oceti. He sits with your cousin Crazy Horse and the visitor Red Cloud and other blotan hunka. He says, 'Come'.”

Blood On His Nose knew this moment would arrive, but he was hoping it might be after his son was born. Crazy Horse and Red Cloud had been trying to get him to help fight the wasichu soldiers building forts along the Bozeman Trail in the heart of Lakota territory. He knew Standing Rock and the “hunt police” wanted to speak to him about another matter.

Shifting under the suffocating hide, which smells strongly of his uncle’s favorite cover scent-skunk-Chased By Owls wonders why his leski is not answering him now. The boy squirms again-the thin layer of snow beneath him seeping into the rump of his well-worn, deerskin breeches. He furtively pushes back the enormous covering, pokes his head out and gulps fresh air.

Blood On His Nose stands before the boy in the darkness-knowing he should go and speak with the chiefs but wanting to stay and see his son born. Yes, a son. Umi, his sister and the mid-wife, is sure he will finally get the son he wants. His birth is the reason the hunter had been sitting outside his wife’s tipi for the previous three hours. But because Umi, like Standing Rock, had a bone to pick with him too, she would not let him in the snug lodge during the labor. Blood On His Nose wanted to be the first male to look upon his boy.

Chased By Owls coughs loudly, disturbing his uncle. His anger at this interruption catches Blood On His Nose off-guard. His pulse rises and he struggles to steady it. Why am I being forced to the council? He fumes inwardly. Crazy Horse knows me; he knows I do not kill…men. The hunter clenches his teeth and flings himself away from Chased By Owls in the darkness. Then he throws his head back.

The clouds, which brought the first snow, have now given way to an enormous explosion of twinkling stars in the vast sky overhead. The hunter’s anxiety lifts. His eyes automatically move to the star his father first showed him when he was the same age as Chased By Owls.

Constant and faithful- Wichapi Owanjila, the Pole Star, shines down on him. He feels all confusion leave. The hunter calmly lowers his head and says evenly, “Heech, tell Standing Rock I will come.”

Without a word Chased By Owls scrambles out from under the robe and disappears into the darkness.

Just as Blood On His Nose is picking up his robe and turning to follow…

he hears a baby’s cry.

Blood on his nose

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