Changes for Kaya

Published in 2002; author Janet Shaw; illustrators Bill Farnsworth and Susan McAliley


 Kaya's life is going pretty well. Speaking Rain is back safe, Cut Cheek is doing well impressing her parents and may soon be her brother-in-law, Tatlo is (gradually) learning to behave, her grief over the loss of Swan Circling is lessening, and she's only rarely called Magpie now. And there's word that a herd of feral horses might have some of the ones stolen from her camp last year. She's able to ride out with her father and an experienced horseman, Raven, and is elated to see Steps High--with a foal! The horse recognizes her and seems happy to be back. But as they're headed back to camp with their stolen horses, a wildfire blocks their path. The three ride desperately ahead of the flames, but Steps High's foal gets lost and the horse goes after her offspring. Kaya catches up to Steps High and mounts her, knowing that it's the only way she can hope to stay near her horse. Steps High remembers being ridden and doesn't buck Kaya off. They find the foal and follow the sound of Kaya's father whistling back out of the flames and beyond a firebreak. Kaya's father is grateful to see his daughter, but he didn't whistle and neither did Raven. It must have been the Stick People (who are mentioned from time to time in the Kaya books and seem to be spirits that can either hinder or aid people lost in the woods). She'll have to be sure to leave a gift of gratitude for the Stick People.

Back at the camp, there are other gifts to prepare. Kaya's family and Cut Cheek's family have agreed that Brown Deer and Cut Cheek should marry before winter fully arrives. Already the fires have been put out by a light dusting of snow, so everyone gets busy preparing a feast and presents for Cut Cheek's family (who will bring presents to the feast themselves). As Kaya works with her grandmother, they talk about the vision quest she'll be undertaking, maybe in as soon as a few months. Her grandmother asks if she's fearful about it. Kaya reflects on her past year: she's dealt with teasing, been taken captive, forced to leave her sister behind, lost a dear friend, and led her horse through a fire. A visions quest doesn't scare her. She thinks about Swan Circling's bravery, and decides she's determined. For now, she'll focus on the wedding planning, but when it's her turn for a rite of passage, she's ready.

Looking Back

In 1805, the Nimíipuu had their first significant interaction with European settlers in the form of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Their initial meetings were friendly, but as the United States spread west under the flag of Manifest Destiny (the belief that all the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific was the US's God-given right), the Nimíipuu and other tribes found themselves edged out. The US government tried to buy land from them and give them small reservations, but the Nimíipuu were used to traveling over a large area, following the food sources: harvesting wild plants here, catching fish there, hunting over there. Their hunter-gatherer lifestyle didn't fit within the confines of the agricultural society the US was used to. Their cultures conflicted in other ways as well. Some Christian missionaries weren't satisfied with sharing the spiritual aspects of their beliefs and insisted that Native Americans conform to more European societal expectations, like men having short hair and women wearing clothes that covered more of their bodies. Then there was the problem of disease; many illnesses which the descendants of European and African people could withstand were devastating to the Native American tribes (actually one reason that African slaves were favored while Native American slaves weren't). Skirmishes broke out from time to time between Native American tribes and settlers. Eventually a large band of Nimíipuu fled for Canada (which doesn't have a clean record on interactions with indigenous people either, but was a better option then), pursued by the US Army. There were battles along the way, culminating in the defeat of the Nimíipuu, when Chief Joseph spoke his famous "I will fight no more forever" speech.

Today, the Nez Perce culture still survives, and has been allowed to grow again. Nez Perce cultural centers offer a more understanding world the opportunity to learn and take part in various aspects of Nez Perce life. As the Nez Perce saying goes, "Where ever we go, we are always Nez Perce."


This book is dedicated to "my stepdaughter, Becky, and her children, Tony and Adrienne, with love."

I wonder why Speaking Rain never got a Best Friends book. Same with Addy's friend Sarah. I can see that it would be hard to pick one of Josefina's sisters for a Best Friends book, and it would probably be depressing to have one for Kirsten's friend Marta (maybe it could have focused on Singing Bird), but Speaking Rain and Sarah could easily have fit the series.


Kahran042 said...

If I recall correctly, one of the catalogs referred to Mariana as Josefina's best friend. So, maybe they could have used her.

SJSiff said...

You're right; she would have been the best choice.