In Lakota tradition, Marty is expected to take part in a "sweat" tomorrow, a ritual of prayer and purification held in a sweat lodge, to prepare him for his first sun dance. The sun dance is a ceremony meant to purify the tribe. It represents life and rebirth, and for Marty it will also acknowledge his entry into adulthood. Marty's best friend, Clayton High Wolf, who helped found the Wild Boyz six years ago, is the nephew of a Lakota medicine man and has invited Marty to dance at the ceremony, four days from now.
A sun dancer is supposed to prepare himself for a year. He attends sweats, meditates, and undertakes a vision quest, in which he must spend four days and nights alone on a secluded hilltop with no food or water, only tobacco and his pipe. Once he has achieved his vision, he takes his pipe and tobacco to a medicine man, who smokes it and interprets the vision. Marty has done none of this but still wants to dance at the sun dance, at Clayton's urging.
At a sun dance, the medicine man pierces each dancer in the chest or the back with wooden pegs. The most sacred part of the ceremony, this symbolizes the sacrifice that the man is about to make for the good of the tribe. While other tribes also hold sun dances, the Lakota are the only ones who pierce. Since they are considered the warriors of the Indian nation, they must endure the ordeal for all Indians. The medicine man then attaches ropes to the two piercings in the back, each weighted down with buffalo skulls. While others chant, the warrior dances in a circle, dragging the skulls in the dirt until his flesh tears. This can take up to 20 minutes.
But if the dancer is not spiritually prepared, he may fail, and Marty is not sure he's ready. He has an infant son and is estranged from the boy's mother and at odds with her family. For the past few nights, visions of the woman have disturbed his sleep.
"I've been having these dreams about her showing up at our sun dance, and you know, them kind of dreams ain't natural," says Marty, blowing on the red ember of the joint. "And so there's a lot of questions in dreams like that, and I gotta figure it all out."
That night, Marty has the dream again. The next morning he drives out to the sweat but refuses to go in. The medicine man says the spirits are trying to tell him something and that someone may have put bad medicine on Marty. "The spirits told him I'm strong, and that the choices I make are my own," Marty says. "My last name says it all, and it's hard to carry. I'm a Red Cloud. I got to match my own powers. I got powers I can't control. There's times when hot water don't burn. That's 'cause I'm supposed to be something different."