Kaya and the River Girl

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


While several tribes are gathered to fish at Celilo Falls, Kaya is challenged to a race by a girl from the Wishram tribe, Spotted Owl. Kaya is one of the fastest children in her village, but Spotted Owl is faster. Kaya tries to be a good sport, but her ego is bruised. Spotted Owl becomes friends with Speaking Rain, who spends part of her time with White Braids, making it even harder for Kaya to swallow her pride. Kaya is still outwardly cordial to Spotted Owl, but wants to be able to really feel as she should. Spotted Owl takes Kaya and Speaking Rain to a high cliff wall where a painted face serves as a watchful spirit for the Wishram people (who aren't nomadic). Kaya wonders if the spirit, She Who Watches, can help her get over her resentment of Spotted Owl. Despite her sincere efforts, Kaya still has troubling feelings toward Spotted Owl. During what should be a friendly competition, Kaya body-checks Spotted Owl harder than she should have and knocks the wind out of her. Kaya confides in Speaking Rain that she knows Spotted Owl is a good, kind person, but she can't get over how she feels. Speaking Rain reminds Kaya that people should work together and encourages Kaya.

Kaya goes after Spotted Owl, but before she speak to her, they both see an elderly woman slip as she tries to get in her canoe and fall into the rapids of the Columbia River. Without hesitation, the girls work together to rescue the woman, relying on each other's strengths to save the woman's life. When the ordeal is over, Kaya is over her ego and offers Spotted Owl a toy horse she had made (part of the rescue involved Spotted Owl riding a horse). Spotted Owl gives Kaya a doll she made in return, and Kaya suggests they become trading partners. Now the girls will find each other every fishing season and build a strong friendship. Kaya thinks She Who Watches must have been helping them, and will be pleased with how they've become friends.

Looking Back

The historical section is about how different tribes would trade goods when they met at large gatherings, like fishing the salmon runs. Since the tribes were from disparate areas, they would have had access to things that others wouldn't have, and vice versa. The things that everyone could get, like woven baskets, were still sought-after trade items, because one tribe might use different materials or designs than another. Trading partners built relationships with each other that could last a lifetime.


And because I typed about a spiritual being on a "high cliff wall" I have "King of Pain" by The Police in my head. There's a fossil that's trapped in a high cliff wall/That's my soul up there. It's a great song, so I don't mind.

Kaya is the last of the historical characters to get a short story collection.

No comments: