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People of the Sea

People of the Sea

4.8 19
by W. Michael Gear

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Twelve thousand years ago, the glaciers of the Sierra Nevada were melting, destroying the habitat of the mastodons and creating the rich land that would become California. The coastal people struggle to understand the changing world around them: their seer Sunchaser has lost his way to the Spirit World, and mammoths continue to disappear.

When a beautiful


Twelve thousand years ago, the glaciers of the Sierra Nevada were melting, destroying the habitat of the mastodons and creating the rich land that would become California. The coastal people struggle to understand the changing world around them: their seer Sunchaser has lost his way to the Spirit World, and mammoths continue to disappear.

When a beautiful woman arrives, fleeing from her abusive husband, the people know what they must do--for if the Spirits are already taking the animals away, what will happen if they shelter a stranger?

Now Sunchaser must make a choice--between the woman he loves and the preservation of his people's world.

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling authors and award-winning archaeologists W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear bring North America's Forgotten Past to brilliant life in People of the Sea.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A rousing tale of deadly pursuit and spiritual journeys." —Kirkus Reviews

"A vivid and fascinating portrait of early human life in America." —Publishers Weekly

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Tom Doherty Associates
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North America's Forgotten Past Series
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People of the Sea

By W. Michael Gear, Kathleen O'Neal Gear

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 1993 W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-1783-8


The lodge had grown unbearably hot, stifling. Sunchaser shoved weakly at the mound of hides that covered him. Sweat drenched his naked body, matting his long black hair to his temples and stinging his deep-set eyes. Cold trickles ran down his sides. He was so tall—twelve hands—that his feet rested uncomfortably against the opposite wall. The fire in the center of the dirt floor had been built up high enough that the flames leaped and crackled. Golden reflections danced across the shiny coating of creosote on the hide ceiling. He studied them through fever-brilliant eyes, and the images wavered like a silvery mirage on the desert.

"Good Plume? Aunt?"

He managed to lift his head enough to look around. The lodge consisted of a pine-pole frame covered with hides. It spread in a rectangle, four body lengths long and one wide. Good Plume was gone, but from the dimly lit corners of the lodge, tiny eyes gleamed as field mice froze at the sound of his voice. For long moments he watched the small creatures before they began to scurry about in search of food. One mouse jumped like a grasshopper onto the log that held down the southern wall. Long whiskers shivered in glints of silver as he sniffed his way around the bases of two soapstone bowls, hopped over a curved throwing stick used for hunting rabbits and stopped beside a winnowing basket. He chewed a bit of wheat-grass chaff while he stared unblinking at Sunchaser, his glossy sides pulsing with his rapid breathing.

Then the mouse zipped behind the winnowing basket as Sunchaser sighed and settled into the robes. A nightmare sensation of helplessness possessed him. His mouth had gone as dry as the autumn grasses. Was it the fever, or did he hear voices ... soft, muted words intermixed with the sputters of the fire?

He let his head fall to the left. Sweat slipped over the skin of his face. Along the northern wall stood a row of thirteen baked-clay figurines. They peered at Sunchaser through sparkling dovesnail-shell eyes. The Steals Light People. In their hands they held the timeless ebb and flow of divine Power. Above-Old-Man stood at the far end of the lodge, looking down upon the Steals Light People. Like Mother Ocean, he was not one of the Steals Light People, but was greater than all of them. Because of that, his figurine was twice the height of the others, four hands tall. His entire body had been painted pure white, but he wore a black weasel-fur headdress sprinkled with quartz crystals that had been glued on with pine pitch.

Sunchaser blinked wearily at the figurine. It seemed to be watching him intently. "Above-Old-Man ..." he murmured reverently. "Your death ... gave life to the world." Sunchaser smiled.

In the Beginning, Above-Old-Man was all that existed. He was soft and shapeless like the clouds. He knew that to create the world, he would have to use part of himself. It took a great act of courage for him to open his veins and allow the blue blood to flow unheeded, but it poured out and turned into the blue waters of Mother Ocean, from which every other life form emerged. The froth on the Mother's surface gave birth to the Steals Light People: Father Sun, Dawn Child, Winter Boy, the Ice Ghosts, the Thunderbeings, Great White Giant and all the others. Even Sister Earth and Brother Sky were born from the vast blue womb.

First Condor, the biggest bird in the world, sprang to life soon thereafter, created from a ball of Sister Earth's clay. As Above-Old-Man's blood drained away, he called to Condor. When Condor came, Above-Old-Man said, "Please, Condor, I am too weak. Let me give you the Power to breathe Life into the things I have created. You must hurry, before the magic of Creation dies. Otherwise, everything will just be bone and stone and water. It will never feel or think."

Condor had to fly very fast to cover the whole world before the magic was gone.

While Condor did his duty, Above-Old-Man grew weaker and weaker, until he shrank to nothingness and died. The world lived because of Him and Condor, but Above-Old-Man became cold and white and hard. Mother Ocean wept. She begged the other Steals Light People to help her, and they made a net of seaweed and put Above-Old-Man in it. First Condor carried the net high into the sky, where Above-Old-Man was reborn as the moon.

Sunchaser could feel the Power of the Steals Light People; it radiated from them like heat from flames. They made the rains come and winter go. As the children of Above-Old-Man, their prayers gave their Father the strength to rise and cross the belly of Brother Sky every night. If the Steals Light People ever failed to pray, the moon would rise no more.

Pinches of sacred acorn meal lay sprinkled at the feet of the clay figurines, just as it was sprinkled on the living Dancers who represented them at the annual ceremonials. Good Plume had laboriously painted these Steals Light People, crushing the colors from plant roots, flowers, berries and clays, working for long hands of time with a frayed willow-twig brush to get the details right. Then she had dressed them in special, ritually blessed clothing—as befitted gods.

Sunchaser's voice rasped as he asked, "Where is Good Plume, Steals Light People? Do you know?"

They seemed to be whispering; the Thunderbeing's voice was especially loud. Thunderbeings looked like young children, but they had the shining, membranous wings of dragonflies. And talons grew where a human child would have had feet. As they soared through the clouds, their wings caused thunder to rumble across the sky. He couldn't make out the Thunderbeing's words. Or were those sounds only the passing of the mice? Sunchaser blinked to steady the wavering focus of his eyes and fought the drifting sensation that possessed him.

Bright paintings lived over the heads of the figurines. On the long north wall, two zigzags of yellow lightning sliced a path through silver moons and blue stars and lodged in the heart of a crimson sun. The southern wall flamed with orange trees whose branches curled in and around to form the interlocking pathways of a labyrinth. Near the edges of the branches, dark swirls spiraled out, like tongues of black flame.... The Darkness that roasts the soul when it attempts to find the twisting road that leads to the Land of the Dead.

With all of his strength, Sunchaser rolled to his right side so he could extend a trembling hand and pull the door flap back. His clammy fingers could barely keep their grip on the leather, but he managed to hang the flap on its peg. As he did so, the hides slipped off his chest, exposing it to the cold wind that swept Brushnut Village. He relished the shiver that shook him. The crisp scent of pine flooded his hot nostrils and he inhaled deeply, seeking to fill his soul with the essence of the trees.

Outside the lodge, the green pines gradually darkened into charcoal spears. They stood like dark sentinels against the translucent rays of pale pink light that shot across the sky. Sunchaser could see no clouds, but flakes of snow pirouetted through the trees and landed on the frozen ground.

How long had he been ill? He couldn't even recall when he had retreated to his aunt's lodge to lie down. Where was she? Was the sickness still ravaging the village?

"They need you, you fool," he murmured feebly. "Good Plume is old ... eighty summers. She can't work all the Healings by herself. It will kill her. Get up. Get up before it's too late and everyone that you care about is dead."

He tried to sit up, but fell back to his hides, panting and trembling from the effort. The interior of the lodge swam around him in a blur of color. He felt sick to his stomach.

Sunchaser had been born here in the mountains at Brushnut Village twenty-five summers ago. He knew and loved each person in the village. How many of them had died since he'd fallen ill? Good Plume's lodge nestled on the western side of the village, down the slope from the others. But he could hear the moans and cries of the sick.

"Blessed Spirits, what's happening? How ..."

Footsteps crunched on the frozen ground above the lodge, slow, methodic, as if each step required great care.

"Good Plume?" he called again.

"Yes, it's me."

She pushed her walking stick through the doorway before she ducked through herself. Snow frosted the fur of her heavy buffalo coat and glistened in the gray straggles of hair that had come undone from her short braid. Her face had a skeletal angularity; her sagging, wrinkled skin was the color of walnut oil.

Sunchaser closed his eyes for a moment.

Good Plume leaned her walking stick by the door and unhooked the door flap, letting it fall closed again. "Are you trying to kill yourself? Winter Boy is still out and about, looking for souls to eat."

She bent down and covered Sunchaser with hides again, then went to the middle of the lodge, where she removed her coat and laid it by the fire to dry. Her thin arms stuck out from the sleeves of her doeskin dress. She kicked a stump of wood closer to the fire and sat down on it, the beaded hem of her skirt fanning around her feet. Her hands shook as she held them out to the flames. "When I get warm, I'll heat up that raccoon soup we had for breakfast."

Sunchaser wet his chapped lips. "Tell me ... I have to know. What's happening?"

"It will just worry you. You'll use up your strength—"

"Tell me!"

Good Plume exhaled a heavy breath. "Flint Pond died today. Everyone in the village is going mad trying to figure out who should be the next chief."

"What about Flint Pond's son?"

Good Plume's voice broke when she said, "Little Elk died this morning."

Faint, wavering images of Little Elk's face moved through Sunchaser's thoughts, each like a knife in his heart. They'd laughed and played together as children. "And Little Elk's wife?"

"She's fine. So far. And we had better pray that Above-Old-Man keeps her that way. She's gone all over the village cooking, cleaning, caring for the grieving."

"Standing Moon is a good woman."

Good Plume nodded and lowered her hands to her lap. She rubbed her joints as though the old bones ached miserably. When she scrutinized Sunchaser, firelight flowed into her wrinkles, making her look a thousand summers old. "People miss you," she said gently. "Everyone has been asking about you. Singing day and night, praying for the Evil Spirits to let you go. People need you. They think you're a better Healer than I am."

He smiled feebly. "Then they are all fools."

"You are much loved, Sunchaser. If you up and die on them, they'll never forgive you."

"I'm better, Good Plume. Stronger. Really—"

"Your fever is very high, and the Evil Spirits have held you now for three days. If we can't pray the fever away tonight, I fear for you."

"No, no," he reassured her. "It's not that bad. I just ... I'm so c-cold, Good Plume." A shudder went through him that made his teeth chatter. He tugged weakly at his hides, pulling them up around his throat. "Aren't there any m-more hides?"

Good Plume rose and went to a pile of folded skins in the rear of the lodge. She carried them back and spread them out over Sunchaser, then tenderly tucked the edges in around him.

Still, he could not stop shivering.

Good Plume's ancient face darkened. "I must pour some hot soup into you. Stay awake for me."

She crossed to the cooking tripod where the hide bag of soup hung and moved it closer to the hearth. Using two sticks, she picked up four of the small rocks that sat on the coals at the fire's edge and dropped them into the bag. Steam exploded upward. A silver wreath encircled her face. While she searched for wooden bowls, Sunchaser said, "I ... I must get well, Good Plume. The Mammoth Spirit Dance will start at Otter Clan Village in five days."

The Dance was held every moon at one of three villages: Brushnut, Whalebeard or Otter Clan. That way, people from up and down the coast as well as from the mountain villages wouldn't have far to go if they wanted to attend three or four Dances a cycle. The Dances brought great numbers of people together. Many of them walked for days to reach the village where the Dance was being held. And Sunchaser tried very hard to attend each Dance. But sometimes, like this moon, he just couldn't do it. Perhaps Oxbalm, leader of the Otter Clan, would delay the Dance? Waiting for Sunchaser? Occasionally it happened that way. But not often. And Oxbalm couldn't delay the Dance for more than a week, because people would begin leaving. Oxbalm couldn't make them wait just to see if Sunchaser might come.

"Yes," Good Plume said, "that's right. And if you are not there, old Catchstraw will lead the Dance."

"He's led it m-many times before, Aunt. He's not as bad as you think. But I ... I've missed so many Dances. I should be there. Though Catchstraw tries very hard, he is just not—"

"Do you really believe he tries hard?" Good Plume grunted and walked back to the fire with two bowls and a wooden cup. Scowling, she dipped the cup and filled the bowls. "Have the mammoths grown more numerous with him leading the Dances? Hmm? No. None of them want to come back from the Land of the Dead if they think he'll be the Dreamer to greet them. People wouldn't attend the Dance either if they knew in advance that Catchstraw would be Dancing."

Sunchaser's stomach cramped. Guilt weighted him down like a black wall of earth. "That's my fault. I should be out walking the t-trails, telling people that it's the Dance that is important. They think they need me there, but that is not—"

"Sunchaser," Good Plume said as she set a bowl of soup on the floor beside him, "you try to help too many at once. No matter who asks you to come to their village, you go. You use every shred of your Power for others and save none for yourself." Spirals of steam rose from the bowl.

"I can't tell people that I won't come ... not when they are frightened or ill. Someone must give them hope."

Good Plume removed one of the deerhides from Sunchaser's chest, folded it and tucked it beneath his head to prop him up. As she tipped the bowl of warm soup to his lips, she said, "It's all right to care about people, Sunchaser, but you must not let your concern disrupt your Dreaming. If you do, in the end even the people you have cared for the most deeply will hate you for it. Dreaming is the only way you can really help them, and they know it."

He took a sip of the warm, delicately flavored soup and sank back against the hide pillow. His teeth had begun to chatter so violently that he barely managed to keep his mouth on the bowl long enough to get another swallow. "Perhaps."

"You doubt me? Don't. I tell you the truth. You must stop giving so much of yourself to people. Pretty soon there won't be enough of you left to Dream."

He started to respond ... but he heard voices again, faint, riding the wind like lost souls, calling to him. He closed his eyes to listen better.

"Sunchaser? ... Sunchaser? Hurry! Where are you? Can you hear me? Come and look! These are mammoths coming!"

A brilliant glow suffused the world around him, filled with the desperate cries of a baby. He floated on that tormented sound with the freedom of a curl of smoke on a still day, rising higher and higher, freed from the cage of his sick body.

The Dream lifted his soul and carried it away on wings of gold ...

He found himself crouching in a condor trap high on a mountain. Rocky cliffs jutted into the sky around him. He huddled down into a ball, but cold seeped from the frozen soil, penetrating his heavily fringed hide shirt and pants. Puffs of clouds were visible through the dense weave of brush. They drifted westward, toward the sea. All day long, snow flurries had intermittently frosted the peak. Above-Old-Man must have been looking out for him. The thin, white coating would help disguise his trap.

The trap was a circle of rocks placed around a pit and covered with brush. Forty hands from the trap lay a dead bighorn, its magnificent horns catching the afternoon sunlight. Sunchaser had killed the sheep at dawn, dragged it down the mountain's rocky slope and slit its belly open so that the internal organs lay in full sight and created a range of smells, from the sweet richness of blood to the stench of torn intestines. Grandmother Condor hunted warily. But only the downy underfeathers of Condor's wings could complete Sunchaser's ritual attire.


Excerpted from People of the Sea by W. Michael Gear, Kathleen O'Neal Gear. Copyright © 1993 W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Kathleen O'Neal Gear is a former state historian and archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has twice received the federal government's Special Achievement Award for ""outstanding management"" of our nation's cultural heritage.

W. Michael Gear holds a master's degree in archaeology and has worked as a professional archaeologist since 1978. He is principal investigator for Wind River Archaeological Consultants.

Together they have written the North America's Forgotten Past series (People of the Morning Star, People of the Songtrail, People of the Mist, People of the Wolf, among others); and the Anasazi Mysteries series. The Gears live in Thermopolis, WY.

W. Michael Gear, who holds a master's degree in archaeology, has worked as a professional archaeologist since 1978. He is currently principal investigator for Wind River Archaeological Consultants. With his wife, Kathleen O’Neal Gear, he has written the international and USA Today bestselling First North Americans Series and Anasazi Mystery Series.
Kathleen O'Neal Gear is a former state historian and archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has twice received the federal government's Special Achievement Award for "outstanding management" of our nation's cultural heritage. With her husband, W. Michael Gear, she is the co-author of many books, including the North America’s Forgotten Past series (People of the Longhouse, The Dawn Country, People of the Mist, People of the Wolf, among others); and the Anasazi Mysteries series. She and her husband live in Thermopolis, WY.

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People of the Sea 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
reececo331 More than 1 year ago
People of the Sea (North America's Forgotten Past, #5) Gear, W. Michael Gear. Kathleen O'neal  The People of the Sea are a great story of survival and surrender. How the mammoth was destroyed and how man was saved.  Kestrel is a young woman abused by her Trader husband Lambkill. After years of abuse and loneliness Kestrel falls in love with her "Cousin Iceplant" whom believes they are not cousins because he draws his birth line through his mother. The relationship has brought Lambkill to the edge of insanity. Lambkill hunts down Kestrel and Iceplant, in a misplaced trust, he kills Iceplant, and Kestrel runs away, only to give birth in desolation. Running for her life Kestrel is drawn into the wiles of power. From the birth of her daughter, and infant son, to the man she soon learns to love, Sunchatcher the greatest dreamer of the people of the sea. Sunchatcher has tried to change the balance of the world, in an attempt to save mammoths, and balance the sides of dark and light. But he is being witched, and just does not know it. Our heroes are drawn down a dark path, with murder, intrigue and deception. Character list: People of the sea   Dreamer: Sunchaser: greatest dreamer of the people, startedthe mammoth dance. Finds that life has a different pattern for him then heexpected.   Kestrel: banished from her tribe because of incest. Motherof twins, left one twin unnamed boy to save her daughter. She is drawn by powerover the wilderness to the cave of Sunchaser.   IcePlant: “cousin”of Kestrel and lover, is tricked intoleading her husband to her believing that he will live peacefully with her.   Goodplume: Sunchaser’s ...aunt, old dreamer, teaches him todream, and cares for the butternut village.   Cacthstraw: false dreamer, challenges Sunchaser out ofjealously. He twists the maze and becomes a witch. His bid for power turns himto a brutal reality that leads him down a dark path.   Lambkill: husband of Kestrel, trader, very brutal man,hunting Kestrel. He is obsessed man because of the death of his mother at hisfather’s hands.   Tannin: Younger brother of Lambkill follows his brother onthe trail of Kestrel hoping that he can help both of them.   Twisting cloud girl: Kestrels daughter seems to have been touched by power.   The boy: the youngest dreamer, never to be born before hehas to learn to sacrifice to save the spiral.   TheMan: (Wolf Dreamer): talks to the boy, and works to sendmessages to SunChaser helping him see beyond the maze and help balance thespiral.   Oxbalm: leader of the Otter people. Oxbalm is a peacefulman who wants to help balance the world, but is lost in the dynamic forces.   Sumac: Oxbalm’s wife and aid in guiding the Otter people.   Horseweed: Oxbalm’s grandson, and a young warrior wantingto help his people.   Power object: Sunchaser’s maze, given to him by Wolfdreamer when he nearly died of an illness, he believed that through it allpeople can reach the realm of the dead.  
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I was there with this historical tale. The Gears made it real and spell bounding. Loved the good and hated the bad. Best ending with hope that America will put more importance on our wonderful ancesters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
FlutterbyeLover More than 1 year ago
Love this book, but all the 'people' books are wonderful
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Gears do it again! Combining history with archeology. A way of "seeing" how people lived in early North America. How they lived day to day. What they believed in. How it affected their lives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been reading books of this nature for years and I am completely satisfied with this series. I have read seven '7' of the books, just started no.8 and can't wait to get to the next one. I am so captivated by each book. When reading I always put myself in one of the characters ... I have cried in each book so far, more than once in some. I have recommended this series so all my book reading friends. Please keep up the awesome writing. Love them all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The love the books in this series. They is so much action, never a dull moment. I never have to wonder how many pages left until I'm finished with the stupid book - on the contrary, I'm disappointed that it has to end. Of all the Native American books, this one is my favorite...so far, I still haven't finished the series & I'm not stopping until I do. I've recommended this novel to every book lover I know.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first read this series, I was thinking it was alright. But, when I read 'People of the Sea' I began to really love this series. I recommend this book to everyone who love historical books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed being back in time with the characters in the books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book had me captivated from the moment i picked it up. i had never even considered reading a book of this sort. it holds the answers to many questions. im hooked!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I gotten hooked on reading the Gear's books and on prehistoric peoples and life. I loved reading The People of the Sea and The People of the Wolf! 2 of my top 5 favorites. :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read this series over 5 times and still have not gotten tired of it. The Gears have done a wonderful job of portraying native people as it might have been. I have not found any series to equal this one
Guest More than 1 year ago
After finishing the book I felt like it should keep going. The characters were so real that it was difficult to think that the story was ended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a thrilling book that would not let me put it down. After finishing it I felt a sense that I wanted it to go on. The character in the story, Kestrel, was no longer a part of my life and I missed her.