I crawled through snow. My hair—streaked and matted with ice—strangled my weak neck as I looked back, through the storm, at the approaching wolves. My life stained their teeth; my wounds drained on the pristine snow. One escape, through the narrow woods, had exhausted my hope. The peyote robbed me of all direction. What thoughts I had collapsed in my fasting hunger. The wolves howled and fell on me. Their clawed paws held me down. They growled, wrestled for my flesh, slurped my blood, and ripped my youth. The wind and snow poured like a flood through the roar of my veins, until my final sensation as a child: nothingness.

Then I swam in a hot spring, its steam like milk from mother earth’s breast. I saw our tipis get smaller, the white man’s forts grow taller, and the forests fell. The wind’s song dried in the desert, overrun by lies and the desperate screams of man-made machines, blocked by walls made from the fallen love of the people for their mother earth. They killed each other for scraps of rock and black liquid, which they spilled in the waters, burned to keep from walking, and then they ran for fun. They desired the power of the earth for themselves. They robbed and raped our mother, as they did to you, my people—who huddled in your tipis with a feast prepared for my return. You cried and hugged your young when you heard the white wolf vomit at the edge of the village. The retching and heaving meant the end of the boy and the birth of the shaman. As the wolf spat me out, I heard you sing a mournful, hopeful prayer to brother wolf, our feral teacher who chases and devours those unwilling to learn.

In the morning, the eye of father sky shined on our future. You brought the feast to the edge of the village, where brother wolf had choked out your new hope. The young ran naked. The elders handed me the staff and drum I’d earned. We sang and ate and celebrated what I learned, what brother wolf taught me, what I will now teach you.