Kaya and the River Girl is part of the Short Stories collections.


Only in Kaya and the River Girl

Story Summary

Kaya sat with Speaking Rain and Tatlo on a plateau above the Big River. Kaya was resting after a game of Shinny, working on a toy horse with her sister. A girl shouts at Kaya, wanting to ask her something. When Speaking Rain doesn't recognize the voice, Kaya explains the voice was one of the River People she played Shinny with, though Kaya didn’t know her name. The River Girl sits next to the two and introduces herself as Spotted Owl. She compliments Kaya on her fast running and Kaya blushes at the compliment, introducing herself and her sister. When Kaya asks how Spotted Owl learnt to speak their language so well, she explains she often went with her mother to visit their trading partner, a Nimíipuu woman.
Kaya and the River Girl 1

Spotted Owl introduces herself to Kaya.

Spotted Owl asks Kaya for a race and Speaking Rain and Tatlo encourage her. Kaya loved races and often won, even against the boys, so she agreed. The two go on the playing field and their friends help set up the race markers. Once Little Fawn gave the signal, the two girls ran. Kaya felt so much strength in her legs that she felt certain she would win, but to her shock, Spotted Owl beats her. The other girls congratulate Spotted Owl. Tatlo runs up to Kaya to like her face as if to comfort her, but Kaya’s pride was still hurt from losing the race.

Spotted Owl tells Kaya it was a good race and offers to race again sometime, but Kaya can only murmur a yes in response. She returns to Speaking Rain dejected, and her pride only fell further when Speaking Rain complimented Spotted Owl’s strong spirit. Kaya decided to practice racing whenever she could and vowed to beat Spotted Owl next time.
Kaya and the River Girl 2

Kaya loses the Race.

Speaking Rain went across the river to stay with White Braids, and a few days later Kaya came to visit. Kaya was upset to find her sister playing dolls with Spotted Owl. She tried to hide her feelings as she greeted the two. Speaking Rain explains how Spotted Owl visited her everyday, and asks Kaya if she wanted to go to Spotted Owl’s village to visit She Who Watches, the old chief who looks after her people. Kaya notes that her sister was wearing Spotted Owl’s necklace, and Spotted Owl cheerfully invites Kaya to go with them. Kaya wouldn’t refuse her sister’s request, but she wished she could just take her sister away from Spotted owl. She had just reunited with her sister and she didn’t want to share what little time she had with her with the River Girl.

Spotted Owl didn’t notice Kaya’s silence during the trip as she told the story of She Who Watches. She was a woman chief from a long time ago, who was a leader revered by her people. Coyote one day disguised himself and visited the village to see if the River People were thankful for Coyote’s lessons and gifts. The leader sensed Coyote was visiting in disguise and thought he might try to trick her. Coyote asks if she treated her people well and the chief said she taught her people to do good. Coyote tells her the world of the River people would change drastically, but the chief states she would stay as long as her people wanted her to lead. Coyote tells her nothing would separate her from her people and from now on she would guard her people. The Chieftan vanished and when people looked for her, they found a strange new face chipped in the pillar of the rock, still watching over her people.
Kaya and the River Girl 3

Spotted Owl shows Kaya She Who Watches.

The girls arrive and Kaya is impressed by the face in the rock, still reminding people to do good. Kaya describes the sight to Speaking Rain and her sister notes while the Chief’s eyes were stone, she wasn’t blind like she herself. Spotted Owl comforts Speaking Rain, telling her she sees with her heart like the Chief does. Kaya exclaims that Speaking Rain was the kindest person she knew. She was upset that Spotted Owl comforted her sister instead of herself when she knew her sister better then anyone. Spotted Owl, not noticing Kaya’s cold tone, invites the two to have a meal with her family. Kaya asked herself why she couldn’t feel the same way as Speaking Rain about such a good natured girl. She looked back at the eyes of the petroglyph and wondered if the old Chief would show her how to get rid of the painful feelings Kaya knew was wrong.

Kaya’s bad feelings towards Spotted Owl didn’t vanish, though, and she hoped she wouldn’t have to think about her anymore once the salmon runs were over. One evening, several River people arrived for trading and games, and the girls gathered together to play Shining. The River Girls were in the lead and Kaya took the ball in hopes of scoring a goal. Spotted Owl manages to grab the ball from her, and Kaya purposefully trips and pushes Spotted Owl down. The River Girls help her up and Kaya, alarmed that she purposefully hurt someone in anger, left to sit with Speaking Rain. After a moment of silence Kaya admits her shame over her bad feelings about Spotted Owl despite knowing everything she did and said was good. Speaking Rain tells her sister that Spotted Owl is a strong leader, just like Kaya, but she musn’t live alone like Coyote. She has to be like the wolf; strong individually, but always working together. Kaya thinks over her sister’s words before saying she had to go after Spotted Owl.

Kaya rode up to where the River People beached their canoes. She saw Spotted Owl pushing out Elder Woman’s canoe. Kaya walked up to the girl, looking at Elder Woman’s canoe as she thought of what to say. The Elder Woman was doing well until she lost grip of her paddle. When the Woman tried to reach out for it, the force of the river tilted the canoe, tossing her into the water. Elder Woman was washed against the out cropping and tried to climb up and away from the heavily loaded canoe. The canoe smashed the woman against the rocks, causing her to cry in pain.
Kaya and the River Girl 4

Kaya and Spotted Owl save Elder Woman.

Kaya and Spotted Owl ran to a smaller canoe nearby and rode to where the Elder Woman was stranded. Spotted Owl kept the canoe still as Kaya climbed out and pulled Elder Woman back to their canoe. Back on shore, other women started to gather around and helped bring the Elder Woman to aid. Kaya and Spotted Owl smiled at each other and agree that they both work well together.

As they rested, Kaya got the idea to give her toy horse to Spotted Owl, who gives Kaya her doll in return. Kaya asks Spotted Owl if she wanted to be trading partners, and Spotted Owl nods happily. Kaya’s bad feelings were gone now, and she couldn’t wait to tell Speaking Rain what happened, feeling certain this is what She Who Watches wanted.

Meet The Author

Looking Back: Trading in 1764

Discusses trading between the Nimiipuu and other native tribes. Topics include:

Activity: Make a Petroglyph

Instructions on how to make a petroglyph, a rock carving.

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