- Author: Janet Beeler Shaw
- Illustrators: Bill Farnsworth, Susan McAliley
- First Published: 2002
- Setting: Midsummer 1764; Pacific Northwest
- Speaking Rain
- Brown Deer
- Wing Feather and Sparrow
- Steps High
- Fox Tail
- Cut Cheek
- Jumps Back
Only in Meet Kaya
Chapter by Chapter Summary
Chapter One: Let's Race!
Kaya and her family crest a small hill and continue on to The Valley of the Winding Waters. A rush of voices and the sounds of animals and activity greeted the travelers. Speaking Rain had lost her sight due to sickness, but nevertheless wanted to know all about what was going on around her. Kaya held the lead rope to her sister's pony as she described the snowy mountains in the distance, the river, the green hills, and the blue sky, as well as the men who were spearfishing for salmon, the women who were cleaning and drying the fish, and the games the children played along the riverbank. To Kaya, the valley was a beloved place, where she could be reunited with relatives, including her grandparents Kalutsa and Aalah, who were among the many bands of Nimíipuu (or Nez Perce) people that gathered there.
Kaya's mother Eetsa and older sister Brown Deer rode ahead, with her younger twin brothers, Wing Feather and Sparrow, behind their saddles. It had been a long journey, and everyone - especially the boys - was a bit restless. They finally reached their destination, and after unpacking their things and greeting family members Kaya was asked to look after her brothers.
Kaya had other plans. She wanted to race, but Toe-ta told her that her horse, Steps High, was not ready to race yet. Despite her father's warning, Kaya was certain that if she raced with Steps High, they would win.
Kaya let herself be persuaded to race by two boys her age, Raven and Fox Tail. She had boasted about how fast Steps High could run, and they wanted her to prove it the only way she could - by racing. Initially, Steps High led the pack, but suddenly she began to try to buck Kaya off! Kaya hung on tightly, desperate not to fall off. Raven quickly helped her regain control of the wild-eyed horse. Kaya slid off of Steps High, shaking. Although Steps High was skittish, she had also proven that she was fast.
Once she was calm, Kaya began to realize... She'd forgotten her brothers!
Chapter Two: Switchings!
Kaya ran along the riverbank, past her all the women who were cleaning and preparing salmon. She barely acknowledge her Auntie, who waved as Kaya passed. She finally found Speaking Rain crouched by a twisted pine tree, but the mischievous twins were nowhere in sight. Speaking Rain and Kaya went looking for the boys, who had gotten tired of the games Speaking Rain made for them. There were all kind of dangerous animals in the woods; the boys could be lost or hurt! The girls found them clinging to a tree branch like raccoons, laughing at the trick they played on Kaya and Speaking Rain.
Kaya admonished the boys. Unfortunately for Kaya, her Auntie had followed when she saw Kaya running, sensing something was wrong. Kaya apologized to her auntie for running away from her responsibility. When they got back to camp, Auntie sent for the Whipwoman to teach Kaya a lesson. The Whipwoman was a trusted elder selected to discipline children when they misbehaved, and she carried with her a bundle of switches. What Kaya feared most - more than the stinging pain of the switches on her bare legs - was the bad things the other children would say about her, for when one child was punished, they all were. They learned that what one of them did affected everyone.
After the switching, the other children began to call Kaya "Magpie", after the little bird who thinks only of itself.
Chapter Three: Courtship Dance
The rainy weather cleared, and soon the men began to get out the drums. Each evening, the sounds of drums, singing, and laughter filled the air. Tonight was the night of the courtship dance, and Brown Deer excitedly put on her nicest dress, decorated with porcupine quills and elk teeth. Kaya and Speaking Rain were both too young to participate themselves, but they were curious about who Brown Deer wanted to dance with. As Brown Deer left to join the others, Kaya thought her big sister was the prettiest girl in the village.
The boys and girls danced in two circles. The circle of boys formed around the circle of girls. The boys tried to dance next to the girl they liked best; if she did not move away, she liked him best too. Brown Deer looked at all the boys except for one, Cut Cheek. Kaya thought this was because Brown Deer did not like Cut Cheek, but Speaking Rain knew better. Brown Deer would always look away shyly as he looked her way. The dance continued, with the dancers moving close to each other, then away, then close again. Cut Cheek moved closer and closer to Brown Deer. Another boy, Jumps Back, placed his stick on Brown Deer's right shoulder. She shrugged it off and continued to dance. Cut Cheek moved closer still, and put his stick on Brown Deer's shoulder. She let it stay there, and they danced together.
The run of salmon up the river was coming to an end. It was almost time for Kaya and her family to move on. While everyone began to gather their things, Aalah realized that she no longer had the knife she used to clean fish the previous day. She sent Kaya out to look for it. Speaking Rain wanted to come along, so Kaya helped her onto Steps High and they rode to where Aalah last used her knife, near the river. The girls dismounted. As Kaya looked for the knife on the ground, Speaking Rain waited so that Kaya would know where she began her search.
Kaya looked back to where Speaking Rain had been waiting. Speaking Rain was picking her way through the bushes. She could not know that there was a steep drop on the other side! Kaya tried to call to her, hoping she would stop. Speaking Rain did not seem to hear her the first time. The second time Speaking Rain did hear Kaya and stopped...as a piece of the bank crumbled into the river. In a shower of stones, she tumbled into the swift river!
Chapter Four: Rescued from the River
Speaking Rain struggled in the deep water to swim toward shore. Kaya knew that in order to save her, she had to try to ride Steps High along the river's edge, try to get ahead of Speaking Rain, and ride into the fast moving river to catch her. Kaya was unsure if the horse would obey her command to swim, but she had to try.
Kaya held tightly to Steps High's mane as they rode at full gallop. Steps High hesitated at the water's edge, but Kaya urged the horse on into the icy water until she was swimming. Kaya reached for Speaking Rain...and caught her! Kaya urged the horse downstream, towards the shore.
Speaking Rain fell limply against Kaya as she slid off the horse. Was she breathing? She was! Speaking Rain lifted her head and began to cough up water. She was weak, but safe. Toe-ta, who was nearby with the other fishermen and Fox Tail, took Speaking Rain into his arms, bent her forward, and slapped her back with his cupped hand to force more water from her.
Kaya had earned the trust of Steps High, as well as the respect and admiration of Fox Tail, who had called her Kaya, not Magpie. As Toe-ta said, she was not racing to be the fastest - "like wildfire" - but to save Speaking Rain's life.
Looking Back: America in 1764
Discusses the Nimíipuu in 1764. Topics include:
- Lessons passed on from elders to children through storytelling.
- How Kaya's people came to be known as the Nez Perce, the French term for "pierced nose".
- The seasonal migrations of the Nez Perce through the areas of modern-day Oregon, Washington, and Idaho in which they lived.
- How life gradually began to change for the Nez Perce, beginning when the horse was brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers.
- The Nez Perces' first contact with whites, and their experiences with missionaries and the U.S. government.
- How the Nez Perce - both those who live on reservations and those in other parts of the country and the world - have come to blend traditional and modern practices.