Nikaia, the lead character in Harvey Chute’s “Stone and Silt.”
Welcome! Please introduce yourself!
Thank you! My name is Nikaia Wales, and I’m 16 years old. I live in Fort Yale, in a cabin with my parents and sister.
Our settlement can be a wild place. I try to avoid the main streets that run along the river – they’re full of drunken gold miners and gambling men. Violent fights are common. I’d rather spend time in the woods, hunting small animals and exploring.
I’m still in school, and someday I’d like to be a schoolteacher. I’m different from most girls my age - who are already marrying and starting families! I’m not too interested in that… although I admit there is a boy here that I find quite fetching.
Tell us about your family.
My papa is a wainwright – he builds wagon wheels for the stagecoaches that run up to the goldfields. He used to be a trapper before we moved to Fort Yale. That was four years ago, in 1858.
Mama is a native Indian. I’ve learned a lot about the Nlaka’pamux way of life from her. It’s hard being a child of “mixed blood,” and I get tormented about that sometimes.
Oh, and I have a younger sister, Klima. She’s a nuisance! But she has a good heart.
I suppose we don’t have much compared to other families. Our cabin is small. Our days are filled with chores, like hauling water from the river, preparing meals, and tending to Rooster, our mule.
It’s a simple life… or at least, it was before the day I discovered the gold…
Do you have any special routines or rituals from your mother’s culture?
My coming-of-age ritual was something I’ll always remember. My mother called it my ‘spirit journey,’ and it marked my passage from being a girl to becoming a young woman.
For me, it made me feel like I was now part of a sisterhood that included my mother and the elders that came before her. It helped me find my adult voice. And, I discovered my guardian spirit – a special connection I have with the animal world that seems to know when I need help.
What was the scariest moment of your life?
When my Papa was accused of murder, I felt sick with fear for him. And my dread went beyond that: with Papa in jail or hanged, my mother and sister and I would be penniless. Our world would be shattered, and we’d have to do desperate things to survive. I was never so scared, for all of us.
Not long afterward, there was a point where I had lost Papa, lost my closest friend, and lost my home. It was terrible and I couldn’t see any light in my future.
Tell us about your closest friend.
That would be Yee Sim. He lives next door, in a small room behind his family’s supply store.
He’s a gentle soul and shy, but he has a quiet strength to him. In some of my darkest moments, when I thought I had nowhere to turn, he was there for me, trying to help anyway he could. The peril we faced has made me feel closer to him in ways I could never have imagined.
What one word best describes you?
Oh, that’s difficult. My mother would probably say “mischievous.”
I think I would say “determined,” because I can be persistent when something needs to be done, even if it seems impossible.
And now you have me wondering how my friend Yee Sim might describe me. I hope it would be “kind-hearted” – because I think that’s a trait he would value in somebody close to him.
Is there a piece of advice that you have received that has really stuck with you? If so, what was it?
Every family faces adversity at one time or another, and that is certainly true for mine. My mother taught me about the power of persisting through adversity… and that hope, beauty, and strength can arise from the most awful of circumstances.
A ruthless murder and a stolen shipment of gold.
At school, sixteen-year-old Nikaia Wales endures the taunts of bullies who call her a “half-breed.” At home, she worries about how her family will react if she reveals her growing feelings for the quiet boy next door.
Those are soon the least of her troubles. Nikaia discovers a hidden cache of gold, and when police find a corpse nearby, her father becomes a suspect. Worse, Elias Doyle is circling, hungry to avenge his brother’s death.
Nikaia desperately searches for clues to save her father. In her quest to find the killer, she learns about the power of family, friendship, and young love.
Here are the links where the book is available:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stone-and-silt-harvey-chute/1116306511
Book Page on RAP: http://redadeptpublishing.com/stone-and-silt-by-harvey-chute/
Harvey’s page on RAP: http://redadeptpublishing.com/harvey-chute/
Harvey’s blog: http://harveychute.blogspot.com/