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GAA: The Kuwapi people were more significant than a mere band of nomads scratching out their existence on the Great Plains of North America, yet they did not have the blood ties to mark them as a tribe or even a clan. They began as outcasts from among the Oglala Sioux.

GAB: In Lakhota, kuwapi means "they follow". The outcasts wandered the tribe's hunting grounds as a kind of punishment detail for religious offenses, with the level of Oglala displeasure permanently tallied by the number of whip scars each one bore on their back.

GAC: To the north the Kuwapi were beset by the Dakotas who held the entire Black Hills and the plains around them. The Kuwapi named them the northern raiders and if the mainline Oglalas helped fend them off from time to time it was more to ensure the hunt than to do favors.

GAD: In the richer grasslands eastward the Kuwapi had the fierce Pawnees to contend with. To the south along the Oregon Trail the Kuwapi were buffeted by the Arapahoes and also ran the risk of encountering white settlers and US Army troops who protected them.

GAE: In the scrubby furrowed lands westward they had the Cheyennes to fear. The whole northwest was put out of their minds by dread of the Crow and Blackfeet. But in the ever-moving sliver of meager grasslands left in the wake of the Oglala the Kuwapi hunters rode.

GAF: Wanica led them downwind of a herd of bison drinking water at a ford in a large creek named Squaw River by the whites. When he signaled a halt, they tied their horses off to the roots of sun- bleached stumps and crept unseen through brush to approach the herd.

GAG: Some of the animal grew nervous though they could not see any of the men. As Wanica and his hunters crept through the riparian zone to watch the herd they cast no shadows. The day was darker than most, with a low overcast. It was cold, but it did not rain.

GAH: The bull stopped drinking and stared downstream, sensing danger. Judging the moment to be right, Wanica stood from behind a shrub and loosed an arrow. The bolt struck a cow in a flank but it was not a lethal shot. All the bison heard the cry of the victim and panicked.

GAI: A rapid series of shots were made by other hunters but all of their arrows missed or made non-lethal wounds. The bison fled to a slope north and west and made for the cover of the low cloud bank, although they were too stupid to have planned such a move.

GAJ: The hunters returned to their horses and followed the herd away from the river. The cloud bank enveloped them as a thick fog. They their bows at the ready, turning left and right, but none of the bison were visible to the men in the complete whiteout.

GAK: Further uphill the fog cleared, patches of blue sky were seen. Three of the bison were isolated and exposed. Arrows were loosed and struck home, dropping one of the animals. The two surviving bison ran back down off the hill into the fog, seeking the safety of numbers.

GAL: Wanica ordered braves to carve up the body of the fallen animal. Meat was loaded on skids made of wooden staves and animal skin to be dragged away. Nothing of the bison was wasted. Satisfied with the progress of the young men, Wanica turned away with the other hunters.

GAM: They rode up the slope until they could go no higher. The summit of the high hill stood alone over a sea of clouds that reached the horizon. It was a rare and beautiful moment. Wanica was deeply moved by the sight. He said, "I name this place the Island in the Sky."

GAN: The herd of bison slowly wandered back out of the fog, grazing warily on the mountaintop even with the hunters close at hand. The animals sensed that the humans had done their worst and would leave the rest of them alone. But what followed scattered even the humans.

GAO: Something taller than a tree emerged from the sea of clouds on six pillars of flame. Only Wanica and his fearless steed remained to watch it touch down on the summit of the hill. At first he thought it was just white men doing one better than their smoking horse of iron.

GAP: The object grew much smaller in size and changed shape to resemble a faceless white man. Not like a European, but white as snow, with no eyes, ears, nor mouth. It shifted postion on the hilltop, and the very ground thundered and shook under its feet.

GAQ: Wanica nudged his horse a bit closer as the white man-shape sat on the ground. Its head opened in six petals to reveal a gold object that rose as though it were being offered to Wanica. He dismounted to take a closer look, approaching the shape cautiously on foot.

GAR: Tentatively, respectfully, he withdrew the golden object from the splayed head while the limbs of the man-shape remained motionless at its side. The object fit neatly in Wanica's palm like the hilt of a knife. The head of the white man closed.

GAS: Wanica squeezed the gift to produce a hissing opaque black beam. When he swept the beam around it carved trenches in the stony ground of the hilltop entirely without effort. He watched the white man change again to become a dome on the summit, like a smooth igloo.

GAT: Wanica discovered that when he no longer actively squeezed the Golden Gift the immaterial black shaft retracted and disappeared. He squeezed it again briefly to be sure it still worked, and tested how long he could make the beam. He found it could also make a shield.

GAU: The curiosity of Wanica's companions overcame their fear. They slowly returned to the summit, together with some of the bison. There the hunters saw the white dome on the very summit of the hill, and they also saw Wanica standing next to it with his horse.

GAV: Wanica lifted a large stone and set it down near the white dome. The companions of Wanica joined him stacking stones around the dome as though they were building a second igloo out of rock. When the men finished they stood back to look. The shape was concealed by a cairn.

GAW: None of the Kuwapi hunters understood what happened on the summit of the Island in the Sky, but they all believed it was fitting to build a hallowed lodge for Wakan Tanka after his manifestation to them, which they understood to be his divine blessing for the hunt.

GAX: By the time the People were feasting on bison the animal's horns had been fastened to leather thongs. One of Chief Tatanka's women pinned the horns to his shoulder as though he had actually departed the tipi where he roiled in womanflesh and killed the animal himself.

GAY: Briefly Tatanka and Wanica eyed each other, but there was with no mutual respect whatsoever. The chief said, "There are five stories how this animal was taken."

Wanica looked away and blew a ring of smoke.

"About the hunt, then. What say you, Squaw Who Hunts?"

GAZ: Wanica's gaze returned to the Chief sharply as though he had been slapped, but he controlled his rage and answered. "We followed the herd into a low cloud. I could not see the other hunters. Each man ascended alone. When the clouds parted we took the animal."

GBA: "And the Great Spirit appeared out of the cloud to bless our hunt!" blurted Plenty Lice out of turn.

"You have taught your hunters to lie so easily, Squaw Who Hunts, said Tatanka. I should give you another name.

Even Wanica was annoyed by the outburst of Plenty Lice.

GBB: "Wakan Tanka was white like snow. He sat on the top of the mountain. His head and arms and legs shrank until he became an egg. The hunters who had been with Wanica nodded their assent and grunted.

"And what did you do after you saw this egg, liar?"

GBC: "We built a lodge of stones for the Great Spirit to honor him for his blessing."

Tatanka pulled out his knife and drew near to Wanica. "You built a lodge of lies. There's no white egg." And he flicked just the tip of his blade across Wanica's face.

GBD: Tatanka was satisfied to draw only a little blood. Maiming his best hunter wouldn't do. He said, "Liar, I name you Hole In Cheek!" Wanica put his hand to his face and walked with dignity out of the range of the fires light. Chief Tatanka laughed but nobody else did.

GBE: Wanica's wife Yuha left the circle of light as well and followed her man to their tipi. While she dressed Wanica's wound his son Shy Bear said, "Father, did you truly see the Great Spirit, or did you just want to annoy Bad Heart Bull?"

GBF: Wanica shifted his eyes to the boy and appraised his son but did not answer until Yuha finished staunching the cut. At length he said,

"Yuha, what we spoke about before, now it is time."

Yuha nodded that she understood and retrieved a leather pouch.

GBG: The pouch contained many pigments and the implements to apply them. Using what she had stored in the pouch, Yuha began to paint the face of Shy Bear. For his part Wanica retrieved a ceremonial dress made of bison skins and feathers and many beads.

GBH: Shy Bear turned his head to look at what his father held, which smeared some of the paint caused his mother to grow annoyed. She said, "Stand and be still, son." Wanica laid the ceremonial dress on Shy Bear and fastened it as his wife continued to work.

GBI Wanica said, "You will get no answers from me." He put the boy's own bow in his hands and said, "I will give you no morsel of food." Yuha finished painting her son's face and stood apart from him. His father said, "To this day I only lent you the name Shy Bear."

GBJ: Wanica opened the flap door. "Go now, into the night, nameless one. Kill your own food, if you can. And if you cannot?" Wanica shrugged. "Perhaps in your hunger Wakan Tanka will give you a vision."

Astonishment marked Shy Bear's face at all these words.

GBK: Shy Bear glanced from his fathers face and traced along his arm to the finger pointing outdoors and he nodded, understanding at last. But he could also see his mother did not understand, not really. She was doing this under duress. This was a ritual, with a strict form.

GBL: As was required of her, she said, "The boy will go out from us. The man will return." And Shy Bear sincerely hoped the worry on his mother's face was not rooted in another one of her well-known premonitions. He obeyed his father and stepped out into the night.

GBM: In the moonless dark Shy Bear stumbled across the prairie until the fires of the Kuwapi people were like flickering orange stars far behind him. By midnight he reached the first slopes of the Island in the Sky and ascended slowly, reaching the summit just before sunrise.

GBN: In the light of dawn the boy sat to let his shadow fall upon his father's stone cairn. He watched all morning until his shadow no longer touched the rocky mound. Then the shadow of the cairn began to touch him. By dusk he had not received a vision from the Great Spirit.

GBO: There was a strong breeze. When the sun sank below the horizon the boy grew cold. He gathered woody brush growing on the summit and cut it with the edge of a flint scraper, which he also used to spark a fire to burn them. But the flame and smoke kept changing direction.

GBP: The boy took the changing winds to be an invitation to spend the night with Wakan Tanka within the lodge that his father built. He removed stones from one side to create a door. When he crawled inside he saw the white egg that Wanica spoke about to Bad Heart Bull.

GBQ: The boy was hungry but it was too dark to try to kill a hare. No heat came from his fire outside but least he was shielded from the wind. There was no room to lie down straight, but he could sleep on his side if he curled around the white egg, careful not to touch it.

GBR: But sometime in the middle of the night while he was asleep he touched the white artifact anyway and was awakened by the sting of a needle pricking his hand. Taking even more care not to touch the manifestation of Wakan Tanka the boy stood up and went outside.

GBS: Shy Bear saw that his fire had become glowing coals, but that earlier the wind must have carried embers halfway down the slope and kindled a brush fire that threatened to form a ring around the whole small mountain. He knew that if he stayed on the summit he was dead.

GBT: Small game was running up and over the summit to flee the fire and the boy could have shot his dinner then, but with every wasted moment he risked being roasted himself. He moved toward the fire to have enough light to see, then moved west to get around the flames.

GBU: But the boy could go no further. A chasm of the Squaw River lay before him. He could hear it flowing over rocks far below as wrapped around the entire southern half of the mountain. He needed light to try to cross it. The fire spread to cut off any escape north.

GBV: The boy looked down into the canyon of the Squaw and saw a tiny light of purest white, like the brightest star he had ever seen, bobbing along the west slope as though it were walking. Sometimes it would move north, then at times south, but it always rose higher.

GBW: At length the light reached the rim on a level with the boy and he saw it was actually worn on the head of a human figure even taller than he. The prairie fire behind it outlined an hourglass shape. A female voice speaking his tongue said, "Follow me and you will live."

GBX: Sha turned and went back the way sha came, and the boy did follow, if anything to reach the creek where he could stand a chance of surviving when the wildfire reached the canyon. The path was free of obstructions, but the female turned now and again to check the boy.

GBY: When sha resumed walking the boy admired the patterned skintight leather sha wore, even in the dim light of the fire, which made har ass look like nothing so much as a big ripe plum. But the sound of the water grew quieter the closer they approached, which was strange.

GBZ: By the time they reached the creek the water wasn't flowing at all. It had become a wet staircase of puddles that led up to a low cave entrance in a wall of dark shale. The femaler crouched to splash har way inside the cave with har tall boots, and the boy followed.

GCA: Inside the cave the boy saw a pool of water with a narrow stone ledge all around it. The light from the stranger's headband filled the space and he saw that she looked very much like a young Kuwapi woman but much taller, and sha was not much older than he.

GCB: Sha laid har hand on har chest and said, "Leliel." Sha expected him to give his own name and he did not want har to think him addled, so he said, "My father once named me Shy Bear, but now he has cast me out of his tipi with no name."

GGC: He clearly saw that sha did not understand his words so he laid his hand on his own chest and said, simply, "Shy Bear." The sound of that name seemed to please har. She removed her headband light and dropped it into the water. It faded as it sank.

GCD: Shy Bear saw the water began to glow with a dim green light. Leliel knew that Shy Bear could not understand har words, but sha tried to make him understand with simple hand gestures to follow har. She made this imperative, as there was danger if he did not follow.

GCE: Leliel jumped into the cistern, turned turtle, and disappeared from view. The boy waited for her to come back up for air as he knew she must, but she did not. The water then began to stir and overflow its bounds. Shy Bear took a leap into the unknown and did follow her.

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