A sensitive, autobiographical evocation of childhood--and of native values undermined from the outside--by a member of the Flathead Indian tribe of the Northwest who died last year at 74. Young Antoine is home from school when his grandfather Bull, chief of the Little Elks who live in the Northwest mountains, takes him up a mountain to discover how the White Man has ""killed the water."" Indeed, the Whites have done a fantastic thing, scooped out the hilltops and built a dam, drying up the rivers and streams that the Little Elks need. This so enrages the drunkard Pock Face that he shoots a dam-tender walking on the dam. Meanwhile, Bull's older brother, Henry Jim, arrives in camp to heal their 30-year breach before he dies. It was Henry Jim who took away the tribe's totem--""Feather Boy"" (a bundle of feathers and furs)--and allowed it to end up in a White Man's museum, eaten by mice and vermin. Now Henry Jim and Adam Pell, the millionaire owner of both the dam and the museum, want to restore the totem to the tribe. Indian spirituality vs. effete White civilization: a blunt-arrow theme, but McNickle's bow is strong with supple prose and an undeniable tragic dignity.