Kaya Shows the Way

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


The salmon are running, and it's time for Kaya and her family to travel to Celilo Falls to fish. Other Nimíipuu will be there, and other tribes as well. Kaya's older sister Brown Deer is excited and nervous to see Cut Cheek again, hoping his family will approve of her and that they can marry. Kaya feels the same about seeing Two Hawks when the Salish arrive: will he have good news about Speaking Rain, bad news, or no news? Kaya's father tells her that there's a band of Salish on the other side of the river, and Kaya goes to see if Two Hawks is with them.

On the other side of the Columbia River, Kaya's dog Tatlo leads her to a wonderful surprise: he recognized the scent from Speaking Rain's doll (Kaya brought it with her just in case) and heads right for Speaking Rain herself! The girls duck inside a shelter as a storm passes, and Speaking Rain tells Kaya how shortly after Kaya's escape, the enemy tribe broke camp and prepared to move on. In the swirl of packing, Speaking Rain was left behind; maybe intentionally, maybe not. She tried to find shelter and food, but being blind in unfamiliar territory made that all but impossible, and Speaking Rain soon grew weak and ill from malnutrition and exposure. An elderly Salish woman, White Braids, found Speaking Rain and nursed her back to health. White Braids had lost a daughter years before, and sees Speaking Rain as a second daughter. Speaking Rain now helps White Braids with many tasks and braids strong, valuable hemp rope which White Braids trades for things they need. And then Speaking Rain gently tells Kaya that she's made a vow: she won't leave White Braids. She owes the woman her life, and White Braids has no family to care for her.

After the storm dies down and morning comes, Kaya goes back to the other side of the river. She tells her family the good news about Speaking Rain, and the bad that she won't live with them anymore. She talks with her family members about her mixed feelings, and how she wishes Speaking Rain hadn't made the vow. She knows it would be wrong to ask Speaking Rain to break a promise, but she'll miss her sister terribly (they briefly consider asking both White Braids and Speaking Rain to move in with them, but White Braids only speaks Salish and Kaya doubts she'd be comfortable living away from her people). While discussing things with Brown Deer, Kaya has a revelation: they see the Salish a few a times a year...what if Speaking Rain spends half the year with White Braids and half the year with Kaya's family? That way Speaking Rain can have time with both her adopted mothers, honor her vow, and be a part of both families. 

Kaya's family meets with White Braids, and Speaking Rain and Two Hawks help interpret. White Braids hurries to explain that she never meant to take Speaking Rain from her family, only to love her and help her get well. Kaya's father understands, but says he has to honor his daughter's promise. Then he has Kaya explain her idea, which everyone agrees to. Two Hawks and his father will meet Kaya's family in the spring on the Palouse again, so that Speaking Rain can spend the winter with Kaya and then join up again with White Braids in time for the hard work of the spring harvest.

Back home with all the family, Kaya and Speaking Rain help Brown Deer while she decorates a deer hide for Cut Cheek's mother. Cut Cheek's family has approved of her, and she wants to have a special gift ready for the matriarch. The next step is for Cut Cheek to live with Kaya's family for a time, to prove that he's worthy of Brown Deer. Kaya is very satisfied: she can enjoy the company of both her sisters for a long time.

Looking Back

Celilo Falls, just east of the Cascade mountains on the Washington-Oregon border, was a traditional salmon fishing ground for hundreds if not thousands of years. Native American tribes came from as far away as California, Alaska, and Missouri to fish. With the large gathering of so many tribes, as much trading went on as fishing. Friendly competitions like races and a game similar to field hockey were also held. Sometimes marriages between tribes would be arranged, offering the same political protections as marriages between countries in Europe. But in 1950, the Dalles Dam was put up to supply hydroelectric power, one of eight dams along the Columbia River. Not only do the dams block salmon from reaching their fishing grounds, they prevent modern-day Nez Perce and others from fishing as they have for generations. Several Native American tribes have been working with the government to try to at least partially open some of the dams to allow for fishing.


This book is dedicated to "my stepdaughter, Betsy, with love."

Kaya is still getting teased by being called Magpie.

The book gives some background about Speaking Rain's adoption: her mother died of an illness when Speaking Rain was about one--just learning to walk--and not long after her father was gored to death on a bison hunt. Speaking Rain's mother and Kaya's mother were cousins, who had always been close and grew closer after they both bore daughters near each other (Kaya's slightly older). When Speaking Rain was orphaned, it was only natural for her to be taken in by Kaya's parents. She was already blind at that point, possibly from the same illness that killed her mother, although the book doesn't specify.

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