Naya Nuki, a Lemhi Shoshone Indian girl from what is now the Bitterroot Valley in Montana, is captured during a raid by the Mandans (of what is now the Dakotas) and finds a way to escape and return to her people. Naya Nuki is eleven years old when she is captured in 1801 along with her best friend Sacagawea, and has lived all her life with her nomadic band of Native Americans. They descend into the valley (near what is now Missoula) during the cold winter months, and return to the mountains in the summer, following the climate and available food. The Mandans now expect her to leave her people behind forever and serve as their slave.
Click here to see the rest of this review
But Naya Nuki won't give up as easily as that. In secret, she collects food, clothes, and tools, and hides them. When the time is right and the first autumn rain comes, she waits until darkness has fallen, leaves the longhouse she has been assigned, uncovers her belongings, and begins to run. The rain will cover her tracks. Over the next thirty-some days, Naya Nuki must survive the perils of the plains and mountains, but her upbringing has prepared her well, and fortune is with her. In the plains where she is still vulnerable and close to the Mandans, she knows how to dig herself a hiding place. She collects edible plants to eat. As she puts distance between herself and the Mandans, she takes time to make a snare to catch rabbit. And she uses natural landmarks to guide herself west towards home - landmarks she was already observing and filing away into her memory during the long trek east. When she is sick, she is fortunate to find herself near the hot springs, which she uses to heal herself, and when snows first come, she finds herself on the same trails her people used to travel between the mountains and the valley. Naya Nuki finds some of their temporary thatched shelters, which she repairs and uses for shelter during a heavy snowstorm of several days.
The snowstorm understandably makes Naya Nuki nervous. If she cannot find her people soon, they will move further and further away towards the valley, and she could find herself stuck alone without the support of her community for the winter. Once again, she is fortunate. She finds the trail of people who recently passed through, and tracks them to their camp. It is her tribe. She is home. Naya Nuki is loosely based on a historical Shoshone girl who was a childhood friend to Sacagawea, who helped the Lewis & Clark expedition on their journey west. Both girls were captured in the same raid and marched off to captivity. Unlike her friend Sacagawea, however, Naya Nuki escaped - at great risk to herself had she been caught - and returned to her people. Mention of the two girls' warm reunion was recorded in the Lewis & Clark journals four years later.
Best part of story, including ending:
Naya Nuki sticks to her convictions about where she belongs and acts on it. She is also able to survive on her on as she covers over 1000 miles.
Best scene in story:
When Naya Nuki finally finds her tribe again, she is looking down from a hill as Sacagawea's brother Cameawait rides towards her on a horse. He does not recognize her at first, but is of course very happy when he realizes it is her. This is the moment for which Naya Nuki has risked punishment if recaptured, and for which she has walked and run 1000 miles, and it was not in vain.
Opinion about the main character:
Naya Nuki acts on her values and her love for her people. She takes risks, but also is knowledgeable of her own limits.