Chapter 5 Summary
In the history of Ghalas-at, this night is the worst. At the beginning of the day, the tribe had forty-two men; now they have only fifteen, seven of whom are old. Every woman on the island has lost someone. The storm blows for two days; on the third day they bury their dead on the south side of the island. They burn the fallen Aleuts.
Ghalas-at is quiet for many days, the villagers leaving only to gather food and come back to eat in silence. Some in the tribe want to leave and go to an island called Santa Catalina, far off to the east, but others say there is little fresh water there. A council is held, and the villagers decide to stay. They also select a new chief, Kimki. He is very old, but he was a good man and hunter in his youth. That night he calls everyone together. He tells them the strong men who had snared food, found fish in the deep waters, and built canoes are now gone, and it is the women—who have never been asked to do such things—who will have to take the place of the men. There will be danger and there will be complaining in the village because of this. There will even be “shirkers” who refuse to work; these will be punished, for everyone must work or everyone will perish.
Kimki assigns work to everyone in the tribe. Ulape and Karana are to gather abalones, which grow plentifully on the rocks. At low tide, the girls gather them in their baskets and carry them to the mesa where they cut the red flesh from the shell, placing it on flat rocks to dry in the sun. It is Romo’s job to keep the abalone meat safe from the gulls and wild dogs. Dozens of the dogs once kept as pets left the village after their owners died and have now become part of the wild pack that roams the island. Soon the pets grow fierce and came back to the village only to steal food. At the end of each day, the girls and Ramos pack the food in baskets and take it to the village for safekeeping.
Other women are gathering apples (called tunas) from the cactus bushes, fishing, or netting birds. The women work so hard that the village is soon better provided for than when the men were doing those duties. Life should have been peaceful in the village, but the men begin complaining about the women taking over their jobs. Now that the women have become hunters, the men scorn them; so Kimki once again assigns jobs to each villager. Now only the men hunt and the women only harvest, and there is already plenty of food set aside for the winter. The real reason for the unrest in Ghalas-at is that...
(The entire section is 730 words.)