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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
The wait is long, and Tom is filled with discomfort. As the afternoon passes into darkness, Tom feels chilled. He grows weary and out of focus, drifting into sleep. Suddenly, he sees something move, but it
is a woman. He instinctively knows that he is viewing the All- Mother, the personification of all mothers and grand-mothers back to the very beginning of time.
The All-Mother chants in a sad and pleading voice, and Tom joins her in the song. When the chant is over, she disappears, and Tom opens his eyes. Before him is the bear, who is warily sniffing the air. As the creature moves towards him, Tom tries to sight the bear in his rifle and take aim, but the light is too dim to fire a shot. The bear then moves away towards the doe carcass to eat. Tomís pulse pounds to the beat of the All-Motherís chant. He aims for the bear, but his finger refuses to pull the trigger. Instead of firing the gun, a question pounds in his head. It is asking, "Who are you?" In response, Tom lowers his rifle and simply watches the bear.
At sunrise, Tom watches as the bear leaves. He suddenly feels like a total stranger; everything suddenly seems different and unfriendly. When he takes a drink from the creek, the water makes him feel sick and weak. He realizes that he is very hungry, but he can find no deer to kill and cook and eats nothing.
When darkness again surrounds Tom, the All-Mother reappears and begins her chant. Tom joins in, whispering the Indian words. When he realizes that his body is aching all over, he heads back to his camp, finding it by reading the stars in the old Ute manner. In the early morning, he bathes in the icy pool. He then emerges, sits on a rock, and watches the sunrise. Naked and unarmed, Tom then heads back up the mountain, reaching the top in the late afternoon. He lies on his back, watching the stars come up and drifting off to sleep. He awakes, haunted by nightmares and hunger.
In his dreams, the forces of nature show their fury, and the mountain demands to know who Tom is. Before he can answer, the All-Mother appears and says that Tom is her son. When he awakens, he finds himself surrounded by the white light of truth. As the sun rises, he sings a chant to the new day and goes back down the mountain to his camp.
Tom draws a deer in the sand with a stick and speaks to it, asking it to help him. He apologizes to the deer, saying that he has wasted parts of a doe. He confesses that he killed the animal, but did not eat it all, for he had denied the teachings of his past and refused to acknowledge who he really was. He scatters some flour as an offering to the deer. He then takes his rifle and knife and waits in the bushes. Spying a buck, he quickly kills it. He asks the Earth to drink the deerís blood as an offering. This time Tom butchers the buck in Ute fashion, without wasting anything. He cooks the meat and eats his fill. He then sleeps peacefully.
This longest chapter in the novel is very important, for it is the climax of the book and the turning point in Tomís life. After the All-Mother appears and chants to him, Tom is changed. He cannot kill the bear that is before him. But he still feels like a stranger. When he drinks at the creek, it makes him sick, for he is not yet at peace with himself or Nature. When he bathes in the icy creek, it is like his baptism unto himself. Although the water is freezing, a warmth comes over him. Naked and unarmed he goes back up the mountain. At the top, he lies close to the earth, feeling her on his naked belly, and falls asleep. For the last time, he dreams of being trapped in the saddle of a falling bronco, of being threatened by Red Dillon, of riding a horse to its death, of killing the doe and not using all its parts, and of being a lost child. He is awakened by the sound of the mountain asking him who he really is. Before he can answer, the All-Mother appears and says that Tom is her son.
After the All-Mother claims Tom as her own, he awakens to the light of truth about who he is. He accepts his heritage and the Ute teachings of old. As a result, he apologizes to the deer for having wasted some parts of the doe and spills the blood of the buck on the earth as an offering. Tom is finally at peace and harmony with himself and at one with Nature.
Tom builds a lodge on the first level of Granite Peak and proceeds to live in the old Ute way. He cures meat and smokes trout for the winter, tans deer skins to make moccasins and snowshoe webbings, gathers nuts, roots, and peas, and collects firewood. Because of his preparations, winter passes without difficulty. In the solitude of the cold evenings, Tom reflects on his past. He thinks about his pet bear cub, the treatment he received from Blue Elk and Red, and the shame he felt in school. He also often thinks about the bear hunt and wonders what would have happened if he had pulled the trigger.
One by one, Tom overcomes the painful things in his past. He succeeds in destroying the bad memories of Blue Elk, Benny, Neil Swanson, Rowar, Red Dillon, attending school, and the dead horses that he killed. In truth, he simply eliminates "Killer Tom Black" and becomes once again Tom Black Bull, a proud Ute Indian; he finds peace with himself by going back to his old ways and living in harmony with Nature.
Later, Tom thinks he will go back to Pagosa and talk with Jim Thatcher. He wants to find out about Blue Elk and try to understand why he mistreated his own people. He also wants to visit the school and see what is happening there. For the present, however, he wants to enjoy what he has. As the sun sets and the book closes, Tom Black Bull chooses a scenic spot on the mountain and sings an old Indian chant to himself.
Tom decides to settle down at Granite Peak, where he builds himself a new lodge and lives off the land. There, he finds peace and harmony and comes to understand the reason for his past behavior. As he thinks about the old memories that have haunted him, he kills them one by one. At the end of the book, he is truly enjoying life, as he sings an old Indian chant.