Only in Kaya's Escape
Chapter by Chapter Summary
Chapter One: Taken Captive!
Kaya and the rest of the girls in the village were picking berries to dry and store for the upcoming winter. When she thought no one was looking, Kaya sneaked a handful of berries for herself. Little Fawn does notice, and cries out that Magpie was stealing berries, giving Kaya a teasing grin. Kaya winced; not a day went by without someone calling her by the nickname she had earned earlier that summer. It still stung her each time she was called Magpie.
Kaya set her berry basket alongside the other baskets for Kautsa to load onto the horses. Kautsa glanced at Kaya and nodded at a nearby little girl with her own basket, asking if Kaya remembered being that small. Kaya recalled the praise she got for her berries, and how she was told she would be a good picker one day, and Kautsa states she already was one. As they head back, Kaya comments on the heat and asks if she and Speaking Rain could sleep outside the teepee tonight. Kautsa doesn't allow her; with majority of the men away hunting, it was safer for everyone to stay close together. She points out that even the boys were keeping the herd close by too, and Kaya spots Steps High in the herd.
When they reach home, Kautsa suggests for Kaya to take a break in the shade with Speaking Rain, who had stayed behind to work on her weaving. Kaya approaches her sister, handing her some of the huckleberries she had picked. Kaya tells how the dogs chased the bears out of the bushes, but Speaking Rain asks why Kaya sounded sad. Kaya, knowing she couldn't hide anything from Speaking Rain, tells her about being called Magpie again. Speaking Rain hopes the nickname would fade soon, then upon hearing Steps High, suggests Kaya to check on her horse as nicknames didn't mean anything to them. Kaya squeezed Speaking Rain's hand gratefully; she always seemed to understand her.
Kaya approached the herd and called her horse over. As she stroked Steps High, she took a moment to look over the camp. Kaya trusted Kautsa's warning to stay together to be safe, but at this moment this quiet valley seemed like the safest place she could imagine.
Kautsa whispers to the tent to wake up in the middle of the night, having heard the dogs growl. Kaya had trouble waking up until the dogs started to bark fiercely, realizing something was wrong. Eetsa peeked outside, and warns the tent that enemies were in the camp. Everyone quickly got dressed and Eetsa instructs Kaya and Speaking Rain to go into the woods to hide.
Eetsa, Brown Deer, Kautsa and the twins headed straight for the woods, but Kaya saw the enemy raiders heading for their horses. Holding Speaking Rain's hand, Kaya headed for the horses, worried they would steal Steps High. Kaya saw another woman, Swan Circling, head towards the horses as well, taking a stab at the raider who was attempting to take her horse with her digging stick.
The Raiders began to stampede through the camp, and it wasn't until the few Nimíipuu men began to shot their arrows that Kaya decided to retreat into the woods. Before they could make it, raiders grab Kaya and Speaking Rain, lifting them onto their horses as they rode away from camp. Kaya spotted Steps High running with the raiders, having been stolen with the rest of the horses by the raiders. Now Kaya and Speaking Rain were captives as well, and Kaya is well aware it's all her fault.
The raiders continued to run for hours. At one point Kaya considers jumping off the horse despite the risks, thinking it would be better to die then to be a slave. Kaya ultimately decides against it, not wanting to abandon Speaking Rain. When the raiders take a break from running, Kaya spots Steps High getting a drink, clearly exhausted from the punishing journey, and Kaya wishes she could get close to her.
Although Kaya couldn't understand what her captors were saying, she recognizes the language as something from Buffalo country, and she can tell they were bragging to each other about their raid. The man who snatched Speaking Rain offers her some food but upon realizing she was blind, grunts in disgust and seats her by Kaya. Speaking Rain asks where they were, and Kaya explains they were somewhere on the rail to Buffalo country.
When Speaking Rain asks what would happen to them, Kaya reminds her how their father and the other warriors had planned their own raid the last time enemies from the south stole their horses, and she was sure they would plan another raid to save the two. In reality Kaya was very uncertain; they had already traveled a long way into the mountains and by the Nimíipuu men returned, the raiders may have already moved themselves securely into the east. Kaya wasn't sure what would happen to her, Speaking Rain and Steps High then. She squeezes Speaking Rain's hand and tells her they would have to be strong.
One of the raiders motions the two to lie down to sleep, tying their legs together so they couldn't escape. Both girls were too afraid to sleep, but Speaking Rain began to sing the lullaby Kautsa used to sing to them. Kaya is initially worried the raiders would stop them, but but they aren't bothered. Lulled by her sister's singing, Kaya slept.
Chapter Two: Slaves of the Enemy
The raiders moved eastward over the Buffalo trail as fast as they could. Kaya recognizes the trail as a old pathway made before the Nimíipuu had horses, and as a result it wasn't the safest road for horses. Kaya sees Kautsa's old packhorse trip and fall down the slope trails to it's death, but the raiders continued to push the horses to their limit.
Each night when they camped, a scout was sent back down the trail to see if they were being followed. Kaya hoped Toe-ta and the other men would come, but when the scout returned and the raiders continued on without rushing, Kaya knew no one was behind them. Along the way, the raiders had Kaya do labor such as wood gathering, and they fed her and Speaking Rain their meal scraps. Kaya felt like the starving dogs that sometimes appeared at their camp out of nowhere, and she vows if she ever returned home, she would never chase off those desperate dogs again.
When they reached the raider's camp, they were proudly presented alongside the horses. Kaya didn't let her feelings show, but she felt disgusted to see the raiders being praised and honored, and winced when the men stroked the horses they liked best, including Steps High. Everyone in the camp was smiling and pleased, saved for one dirty boy. Kaya deduces he must be a slave as well, and she expected herself and Speaking Rain to be as tired and bitter as he looked soon.
The women inspected Kaya and Speaking Rain, not sounding very impressed with them. They're upset with the raiders when they realize Speaking Rain is blind, and Kaya fears they might decide she was of no use and abandon her here. A raider led Speaking Rain to a mother with a baby and Kaya assumes he told her how Singing Bird could sing lullabies and tend to the baby. Kaya hoped they would realize Speaking Rain was a skilled cord maker and weaver as well.
One of the older women, who Kaya began to think of as the Beaver Woman, takes Kaya to see if she knew how to scrape hides. Kaya scraped the best she could, vowing to work twice as hard to make up for Speaking Rain and protect her. When night came, the Otter Woman had Kaya and Speaking Rain sleep in her teepee. She tied Kaya's ankle around her town with some rawhide, but left Speaking Rain loose as she knew a blind girl wouldn't try to escape. Speaking Rain pressed against Kaya's side and Kaya tells her to be strong, but the Otter Woman pinches her in an attempt to hush her. Kaya clenched her teeth and vowed not to cry, even in the dark, but her heart ached as she realized she and Speaking Rain may never see their people again.
In the morning Kaya fetched the wood and when the men returned from the hunt, she worked with the other women to scrape and tan the hides. Magpies were swooping over the dried meat, making Kaya think about her nickname. She had vowed to be more responsible, but then disobeyed Eetsa's orders and got herself and Speaking Rain into captivity. Kaya thinks she deserved being called a selfish Magpie after all. She picked up a lone magpie feather and put it in her bag as a reminder she must think of others before herself.
Kaya often caught glimpses of Steps High from where she worked, and she longed to stroke her horse, but the herd was closely guarded. One evening, Kaya spotted Steps High wandering away from the herd and closer to the camp without getting the guard's attention. Kaya attempted to sneak her way closer to Steps High and call her over.
Before Steps High could reach Kaya, a man strode up behind Kaya, whipped the back of her legs, and gestured for her to return to camp as he tried to ride Steps High back to the herd. Steps High attempted to buck the man off of her, but is subdued by his whip and from a distance Kaya can spot the blood on her. Kaya wished she could stop this treatment and ride Steps High away from here, but she knew she could do nothing to help her horse.
Sometimes when Kaya was fetching firewood, Speaking Rain would be sent with her to help carry the bundles. The slave boy was sent along as well, and Kaya wanted to get to know him as he seemed close to her age, but he frowned and turned away whenever she came close. Kaya knew he must be ashamed of doing women's work, and didn't follow after him, instead using her only chance to talk freely with Speaking Rain.
Kaya notes that the hunt would end soon and Speaking Rain sighs with the weather was getting colder, they'll soon turn back for their own country. The two agree they needed to escape before they get taken farther away from home, but Kaya was tied up at night and couldn't reach the knife in the Otter Woman's pack. Speaking Rain points out she herself could get the knife to Kaya, but the two fall silent. Speaking Rain states even if Kaya could free herself, she would have to go alone as Speaking Rain herself wouldn't be able to keep up with her in the run.
Kaya winced at the thought and insists she would never leave Speaking Rain behind, not wanting to leave her in the mess she got her in. Singing Bird is firm in her decision, saying Kaya must leave so she can get the others to get her. Kaya didn't know how she could go on without her, and Speaking Rain tells Kaya it was their only hope. Kaya is then unsure how she would be able to get back home to Salmon River Country before the snow fell. Speaking Rain suggest Kaya could ride Steps High, but Kaya points out the raiders were sure to notice that, and she'd have to go on foot.
Kaya is distraught and worried, but Speaking Rain asks Kaya what Kautsa would do if she was captured. Kaya knew Kautsa would try to escape, and this fact assures her. The two make plans to start saving up food for Kaya's journey, and the head back to camp. Kaya began to wonder how she could leave Speaking Rain, what would happen to Steps High, and what would happen if she escaped, but got recaptured by the enemies.
Later that day, Kaya saw the slave boy tending to the fire, and he motioned for her to stop. Making sure no one was watching, he moves his hands, asking if she understood sign language. Kaya knew how to, and he asks what tribe she was from. After answering him, she asks him the same and learns he was Salish. Their conversation ended as others got near but Kaya kept thinking about the boy. The Nimíipuu were friends with the Salish, and she thinks she and the boy could work together to get them back with their own people.
The next chance they get to talk, Kaya learns the boy's name was Two Hawks. When she gives him her name, she considers asking him to escape with her, as she would have better odds of making it home with another person to help her. Kaya didn't know if the boy would want to come with her, or even if he could be trusted.
When they were sent together to fetch the cooking water, Kaya asked how long Two Hawks had been a slave. He explains he had been a slave for a long time, that he was captured during a raid on his village, and he didn't know where his family was or even if they were still alive.
Kaya knew they couldn't be alone for much longer, and that this may be her only chance to tell him her plan. She decides to take the risk to trust the boy with her plan to escape, and asks him to come to Nimíipuu country. Two Hawks was silent for a moment before singing that he wanted to go with her.
Kaya starts to sign how they would need to prepare their food supply and hides, but Two Hawks shakes his head, saying they needed to go now. Kaya, thinking him foolish and reckless, says they had to be patient and to wait for her signal. Two Hawks points to the horses down the stream, where the men separated Steps High and a few other horses from the main herd and tie hides onto them. Two Hawks explains he understood some of their language, and he knew once they traded those hides and horses, they were going to move deeper into Buffalo country, so they needed to leave now.
Kaya's mind whirled as she realized Steps High was being traded away. As she watched her horse disappear over the horizon, she knew Two Hawks was right and they'd have to escape soon.
Chapter Three: Escape!
There were signs of an approaching storm as the day ended, a good opportunity for Kaya and Two Hawks to escape. When she saw lightening strike, Kaya went to Two Hawks to signal him that they would leave tonight, and to meet her by the big tree. The rain began as everyone, save for a lone guard, took shelter in their teepees.
When Kaya was certain everyone was asleep, she whispered to Speaking Rain to get the knife. The rain covered any noises Speaking Rain made, and when she feels the knife in her hand, Kaya frees herself. Kaya prepared her belongings as Speaking Rain took Kaya's place beside the Otter Woman. Kaya faltered as she thought about leaving Speaking Rain behind. Kaya clasped her hand and Speaking Rain squeezed it back, a vow that they would be together again.
Kaya sneaked out of the tend, not seeing the guard anywhere and assuming he went to check on the horses. When Kaya left the teepees behind, she broke out into a run to the meet up point in the woods. She looked for Two Hawks, and she is incredibly relieved when she hears him call her name. Two Hawks beckons Kaya to follow him, and the two run westward, covering as much ground as they could before it became light and the raiders noticed their absence.
They take a rest under a rocky shelf, and Kaya sleeps until Two Hawks presses his hand over her mouth, signaling her to be quiet and still. They heard distant hoofbeats, scouts looking for them, but they don't notice their hiding spot and the hoofbeats disappear. The two hid n the ledge all day, only taking a look outside when it was dark again.
Kaya looks for the north star and calculates the way west. She signals for Two Hawks to follow her but he shakes his head. Kaya wondered if he thought she couldn't read the stars, and she stomps impatiently before walking away. Two Hawks began to follow her, and Kaya hoped she hadn't made any mistakes in her calculations.
They tried to find the Buffalo trail but by the time they reach the foothills, Kaya realizes the would have to risk being out during the daytime to find the trail. Kaya decides they should rest before then, and signs to Two Hawks that they should make a lean-to for shelter.
When Kaya finds a spot, she asks Two Hawks for his help, but he refuses, saying that building shelters was women's work, and he refused to do the work of women ever again. Kaya asks if he wanted to get warm, but he insists on being the lookout while Kaya built their shelter. The two spend the night in the lean-to, eating the last of their food.
The next morning, Kaya was worried about finding the trail and crossing the mountains before the snow fell. Kaya was also hungry, and she knew there was a stream in the foothills ahead where they could catch fish. Kaya signs this to Two Hawks, instructing him to follow her, but he glared at her as he signed that men should lead, and tells her to follow him. Kaya huffed with exasperation but didn't put up a fight, figuring he would be less disagreeable once he ate.
As they went deeper into the foothills, Kaya kept an eye behind them for any scouts. When she doesn't see anyone, she wonders if they had already started their way eastward. The Bitterroot Mountains before them already had snow lying on it's highest ridges, and Kaya knew the both of them didn't have much time left. Kaya was beginning to wobble from exhaustion and hunger, and she signs to Two Hawks they must stop and she couldn't go on. Two Hawks is stubborn, saying they must go on, and walks onwards as if he didn't care whether Kaya followed him or not. Kaya thinks if this skinny boy could keep going, then she could too, and she pushes herself to catch up with him.
When Kaya hears the stream, she signs that they should stop to rest and fish tomorrow. Two Hawks says that Kaya shouldn't tell him what to do; his father was a warrior, and he was going to be one too. Kaya signs that Two Hawks was only a boy now, and says she knew better then him. Two Hawks argues that he was the leader, and Kaya gets angry; escaping was her idea and she knew if it wasn't for her, Two Hawks would still be a slave. She also knew if they didn't guard their strength carefully, they'd never make it home.
Kaya insists they rest, and Two Hawk scowls as he signed that he wasn't Kaya's or anyone's slave anymore and he would do as he choose. Two Hawks started to run alongside the stream, disappearing into the bushes. Kaya was angry at the boy, but knew they'd be safer together, regardless of what he thought, and she didn't want to face the night alone.
Against her will, Kaya began to follow the boy, but she she smashes her head against a tree branch, gives up and decides to rest. She began move herself into position to sleep under the tree, but feels something warm and furry. Kaya pushes the branches aside to find a freshly killed fawn. Kaya realizes a cougar must be nearby, and it may consider a running boy more prey and go after him.
Kaya's first instinct was to let Two Hawks look after himself and get herself away, but then she thought of the Magpie feather in her bag, a reminder to think of others before herself. Kaya hurried up the stream and found Two Hawks getting a drink of water. He glanced her way as she approached and as he moved, Kaya saw a cougar leap down from an overhanging branch.
Chapter Four: On the Buffalo Trail
Kaya cried for Two Hawks to look out, and the boy turned around just as the cougar landed by him. Kaya started to yell and create a commotion as she ran up. The Cougar start to claw and bite after Two Hawk's shoulders and arms. Kaya punched the Cougar on the nose and threw sand into it's eyes, and the cougar retreats back into the woods.
Kaya checks on Two Hawk's wounds; the deer hide and Kaya's quick actions had prevented the slashes from being too deep. Kaya tends to his wounds, creating a poultice to stop the bleeding. She signs to him that they weren't enemies; they had to look out and help one another. Two Hawks nodded, eyes downcast, signing that Kaya did a good thing for him, and asks how she said good in her language. Kaya teaches him the word 'Tawts', and Two Hawks says 'Twats Kaya' out loud.
The next morning, the two work together to catch fish and build a fire. As they ate, Kaya thought there was nothing more delicious then this meal they made together. The weather was growing colder and when it began to rain, they had to hurry to find the Buffalo Trail before it was hidden by ice and snow. For a while nothing looked familiar to Kaya, but after they climbed the mountain side they found at the end of the stream, Kaya recognizes the Buffalo Trail. Kaya's spirits rose, but then felt a stab of loss as she wished Speaking Rain was here.
The wind was bitterly cold up on the trail and while they found horse droppings and campfire remains, they weren't fresh. Travelers had already left the mountains for shelter in warmer valleys, and Kaya knew they would have to be cautious of any people they saw as enemies used the trail as well. The two work together to build another lean-to for shelter. Two Hawks signs if he had his bow and arrow he could get them food, but Kaya points out there were hardly any game up this high. The two resort to eating the under layer of some tree bark, and as they ate they heard wolves howling in the distance.
As they continued their journey, they came across a cairn. Two Hawks scouted ahead, but Kaya stopped by the old cairn. Remembering that her name meant 'She Who Arranges Rocks', Kaya made her own small rock mound and tucked the magpie feather under the top stone.
For the next two days the two climbed higher and higher up the mountain. Two Hawks finds a food bundle on top of a tree, left behind by Salish hunters for their next journey. The extra food gave the two the strength to push on. After some time, Two Hawks asks if Kaya knew that country and points ahead. Kaya saw a stretch of prairie; if it was where her people sometimes dug camas bulbs, then they were closer to home then she thought. Kaya signs this to Two Hawks, an the two excitedly go off the trail to get a clearer look at the prairie.
Two Hawks climbs the tree to the near top to get a look, but the branch broke underneath his weight and he fell. Kaya rushed to him and sees Two Hawks clutching at his ankle in pain. She tries to et him a walking stick, but Two Hawks was unable to put any weight on his ankle and signs it must be broken. Kaya bit her lip; she wasn't strong enough to carry Two Hawks and even if he crawled a portion of the way, it wouldn't help them get down the mountains. Kaya decides to build a fire and shelter for now, but Two Hawks was in too much pain to eat, and Kaya wasn't able to make the shelter as airtight as she'd like. Kaya tried to help Two Hawks by hugging his back to keep him warm, but he still trembled violently, refusing to cry. Kaya recalled the lullaby Speaking Rain sang, and she sings Two Hawks to sleep.
Kaya woke up the next morning to heavy snowfall. Two Hawks was still unable to stand on his ankle, and Kaya knew her best chance was to leave him at the shelter and try to reach her people so they could return to help him. When Kaya crawled out of the lean-to, she realized the snow had covered everything, including the buffalo trail. Kaya suddenly spotted a woman standing under a tree on the slope. She looked similar to Swan Circling, tall and strong, light shining out of her .Kaya watched the woman stride up the ridge, occasionally looking over her shoulder, and Kaya followed after all.
When Kaya brushed some snow that fell into her eyes, the woman was gone and a wolf stood in her place. The wolf watched Kaya as she climbed up the ridge and continued to walk, glancing at Kaya as if waiting for her to follow. Kaya wondered if the wolf was a wyakin and hurried after it, but the wolf leaped into the trees and disappeared. Kaya searched the hillside for the wolf, feeling much lonelier without it, only to spot a moving figure.
Kaya hid herself as she tried to make out the figure; it was someone riding a horse. Kaya recognize the horse as her father's horse, and she calls out for Toe-ta as she ran up to him. Toe-ta calls back in return, turning the horses uphill to meet her. He wrapped Kaya in his buffalo robe and held her close, and it felt like a dream to Kaya to be in his arms again. Toe-ta, relieved Kaya was still alive, asks is Speaking Rain was still alive. Kaya explains Speaking Rain was still alive but still a slave, and she had escaped with a Salish boy who broke his ankle and needed help. Toe-ta puts Kaya onto his horse and begins to head towards where Two Hawks was waiting.
When Kaya asks how he found her, Toe-ta explains he and his men had searched without any success until two nights ago, when a visiting scout reported to them about a new small cairn with a magpie feather. Toe-ta, reminded of Kaya's nickname, left the camp to search for he up here. He admits he wouldn't have seen Kaya in all of this snow if she hadn't called out to him, and asks if she was watching the trail. Kaya was about to tell him about the spirit woman and the wolf, but stopped herself. If the wolf was a wyakin, she wouldn't tell anyone about it until the proper time.
Unsure where to start with telling her story, Kaya began simply by saying the raiders traded away her horse. Toe-ta tells her Steps High was a good horse, and she may see her again someday. Kaya asks if they could help Two Hawks return to the Salish, and Toe-ta said they could once the snow melted and it was time to dig roots again.
Kaya then forced herself to say what she had to admit, that it was her fault Speaking Rain was a slave. She had thought of her horse before she had thought of Speaking Rain's safety, but she vowed to bring her back to them somehow. Toe-ta tells her they would do all they can to find her, but Kaya shouldn't blame herself for being captured. Toe-ta states that Kaya had endured much, but here she was alive and well, and they should be thankful she was with them again.
Looking Back: Learning in 1764
Discusses education among the Nimíipuu. Topics covered:
- How Nez Perce children learnt from their communities and helped with gathering food.
- Important skills and lessons children were taught in order to get the skills they needed to survive in the outdoors.
- The role of elders in the community, and their oral history and legends.
- An excerpt of the story of Ant and Yellow Jacket
- The American Indian boarding schools that appeared in the 1800s that native children were forced to attend by the American government.
- Modern efforts to keep the Nez Perce culture and language alive.
Glossary of Nez Perce Words
In the back of Kaya's Escape is a glossary listing and defining the Nez Perce words used throughout the book along with a close pronunciation.