Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In 1846, Gayabuc, the son of the powerful Rabbit Chief or Rabbit Boss of the Washo Indians, sets out on a hunting expedition in the middle of winter to obtain meat for his firstborn son’s birth celebration. He encounters the Donner party, a group of whites who had been forced by starvation into cannibalism. Gayabuc returns to his family empty-handed and warns them about the white people who eat themselves. Gayabuc’s father refuses to believe Gayabuc’s account and asserts that Gayabuc had dreamed it. Painted Stick, Gayabuc’s wife, believes that he came back without meat because he was forced to hunt in winter when game is scarce. Their son is born in winter because their first sexual union had occurred in spring, just before Painted Stick’s first menstruation. Gayabuc and Painted Stick had violated Washo tradition by engaging in sexual relations before Painted Stick underwent the puberty ritual of the Dance of the Woman. The repercussions of their transgression culminated in Gayabuc’s unlucky encounter at Donner Lake.
The cannibalism of the whites at Donner Lake continues to influence Gayabuc during the ensuing spring. Spring is the time that the Washos hunt the rabbits that provide their food and clothing. Gayabuc’s father, the Rabbit Chief, is the leader of the hunt. Gayabuc believes that investigating the white invasion should take precedence over engaging in the hunt, but his father strongly disagrees. The men of the tribe vote and side...
(The entire section is 1194 words.)
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