Posted by: yuaner | November 18, 2019

Yurok Bravery

                              By: Apollo Cai 

Oyuukwi. My name is Mikka. I live in a Yurok village by the Klamath River. I live with my Papa, Mama, and Grandma. We live in a wooden plank house by the Klamath River. 

Mountains tower over the village, and the redwoods grow in a ring around the houses. The Klamath River winds through the tiny buildings. 

My Papa is a fisherman.

He said one day, I could go fishing with him. I always wondered when that would happen.

My family is very kind to me. They supported me and told me I was lucky I was a Yurok. They say that other tribes didn’t even have easy access to water! I supposed I should feel lucky too.

I supposed I should thank the Great Spirits, but there’s something that I thought needed to change.

“Mama, why can’t women hunt? Why do men do it all? Why do women have to gather, while the men have all the fun?” I asked one day after dinner. “Well, it’s just the way it is, you know,” she answered. 

That night I sat up in by buckskin bed, pondering what Mama said about the men. I wondered if one day, this would change. I listened to the soft pitter-patter of the rainfall. 

I guessed I couldn’t ask for too much, though. The damp torchlight lit the house. I put it out and went to sleep.

The next day, I was eating breakfast when Papa came and told me that he would go fishing. “Oh,”I said solemnly, as usual.  

 So why did I point this out? 

Because what Dad said next was truly amazing. “You get to come with me!” he exclaimed. 

REALLY???!!!”I shouted. 

A few village elders shushed me. “Oops.” I said, and slunk down my bench, hoping to make myself real small, so small that even the mighty hawk couldn’t see me.

 Apparently that failed. 

“It’s all right.” Chief Pamo said. “This is probably really exciting for you. I still remember the day I started going fishing. I would tighten my body up as a little mouse, and then I would burst out like a million arrows shooting outward.”

 “Wow,”I said,”yeah.”

I probably didn’t point this out before, but Chief Pamo is really nice. 

After breakfast, Papa came with his boat. I liked the way his oar was shaped. It was really thin on the top, and it grew fatter.

Splish! Splash! Splish! Splash! The oars skidded across the water surface, descending down the Klamath. Then my Papa let the line out. But what I didn’t notice that last night’s little drizzle had turned into a storm.

 Thunder flashed. A cloud drifted past, covering the sun. A streak of lightning zigzagged across the stormy sky and set a redwood tree on fire. The sky darkened and winds swept past in a frenzy.The rain splattered on my face. The Klamath started to flood, and a wave of water from the Klamath slammed into our canoe. Papa was swept out. 

“PAPA!” I shouted. Without thinking, I charged into the rushing water. Our fishing trip had turned into a disaster.

I dove downward, and broke into a glide. By the first thirty seconds, my lungs were screaming for air. But I had to save my Papa. 

I estimated there was about a minute before I would run out of air and drown. 

59…58…I saw him. His headdress was floating around, his rod tugging in the current. I swam toward him. 55…54…he was sinking fast. I swam toward the bottom of the river. I was losing pressure fast. 

49…48… I looked around, but Papa was not there. I paused and listened. 37…36…35…34…I looked more, and I found him. I grabbed him, and all I could remember after that was darkness.

They said I was carrying Papa in my arms when I passed out in the water, and Mama swam down and pulled me up.

 I honestly didn’t know what happened. All I knew right now was that Papa and I were alive, which was a good thing. But the village had also been wiped out, which was a bad thing. 

I scanned my surroundings. I was in a small clearing in the woods, where the villagers had set camp. The forest was all around the clearing, and the Klamath river bank was now a farming land. 

The elders gathered round in a semicircle around me, and the shaman was chanting in Karuk language. When they saw I was awake they cheered. Grandma even got in the action. They said without me, Papa would have been dead by now. 

Later that day, Papa came and said “Sorry. I…didn’t mean that.”

“That was the best fishing trip ever.” 

“Even though you fainted?” 

“Still.”

 “Even though you almost lost your Papa?” 

“Still.”

“ Even though we lost our canoe?”

 “You could keep on asking these questions and still, that was a great trip.”

 “Even though you didn’t get to catch any fish?” 

“Can you stop?”I asked.

 We all laughed and ate around the fire, especially my Papa and me. 

I hope I will be remembered as the brave girl who bravely charged into the water and saved her Papa. 

But then again, I might be remembered as the girl who stupidly charged into the water who almost died.

                     The End.


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