Kaya and the Flood

Short story collection published in 2006; author Janet Shaw; illustrators Bill Farnsworth and Susan McAliley


Now that she's mourned the loss of Swan Circling, Kaya is eager to harvest the camas bulbs, which her sorrow prevented her from doing last year (her emotions might have tainted the plants). But she might miss another First Roots festival when she's needed to assist her grandmother with a young woman in labor. Kaya is disappointed at the prospect, but also excited to be considered so important the she can help with this event. By evening, a healthy baby boy is delivered, and the mother is doing well too. Maybe even well enough to travel after a good night's sleep.

But Kaya awakes to hear the horses panicking. There's a flood! Quickly Kaya catches the last horse that hasn't run off (she tethered the alpha horse, which would normally prevent all from wandering away) for the mother and baby to ride, and her grandmother grabs her bag of medical supplies. They flee to higher ground, and the rest of their supplies are washed away in the flash flood--but the people are safe. After the waters recede a short time later, Kaya goes looking for the missing horses. She can't find Steps High or her foal Sparks Flying at first, but then she hears Steps High whinnying nervously. Steps High is safe, but Sparks Flying is stranded by the floodwaters on a small island. Kaya has to swim across with Steps High to convince the foal to swim back to the shore. It's a tricky crossing through cold, turbulent water, but the horses can sense Kaya's confidence and trust her. Kaya's grandmother saw the ordeal, and praises Kaya's bravery and resourcefulness not only for the rescue, but all her actions over the last twenty-four hours. As her grandmother starts to prepare a meal, Kaya notes that they'll be staying to rest a while. Her grandmother confirms that Kaya might miss the ceremony, but certainly not the harvest. She'll be able to provide for her family just as Swan Circling did, the same way Kaya emulated Swan Circling's bravery. Kaya's grandmother points out that she's kept the baby safe, and looking at the newborn with his mother, Kaya's satisfied that she's done well.

Looking Back

Staying safe was everyone's responsibility is Kaya's time. Though scouts were assigned to watch for danger day and night, the rest of a camp was expected to be aware of surroundings and ready for anything. Children were encouraged to play active games to keep fit and make-believe games that mimicked the skills they would need as adults. People kept an eye on what the animals around them were doing as well, as the animals' keener senses could alert them to fire or floods or other dangers before a scout's eyes and ears could pick them up. From a young age, children were shown how to watch for dangerous animals like mountain lions, bears, and venomous snakes. Armed with the knowledge of what to watch for and how to stay safe, Nimíipuu children would grow up confident in their surroundings.


One of the supplies Kaya fetches for her grandmother is a diaper for the baby. Smart woman; asking for that. The diaper is a buckskin cover that holds milkweed fluff which can be easily removed and replaced when soiled.

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