Natishma is a boy from the Chesapeake tribe of Tidewater Virginia. He is taken into the spirit world after fainting from heat exhaustion and told that a moon-colored people will arrive in his native land by the time he is initiated into manhood.
Although he has a physical deformity and is bullied by his peers, he is chosen to be the shaman who will attempt to lead his and the surrounding tribes to accept the new arrivals.
Natishma’s vision quests reveal to him that if the tribes resist the new people when the arrive, the tribes will disappear from the earth. Their spiritual life will survive only if they walk the path of peaceful coexistence with the people they see as a backward and unclean race. The English have barking sticks that kill, and often after they leave a village a large portion of the population is wiped out by a mysterious disease.
In 1586, when it becomes too dangerous for the English colonists to remain on Roanoke Island, the majority choose to move north and live among the Chesapeakes. The colonists intermarry and live with the tribe for twenty years before they and the Chesapeakes are destroyed by Wahunsonacock (Powahatan) who believes a prophecy foretelling of his destruction by a people to the east.
Natishma is told that the sacred way of life will reawaken many generations in the future to save the people who have forgotten their deep spiritual roots.
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