"Before the first European explorers came, North Carolina was full of many Native American nations belonging to at least three language families. Little has been written about a world that existed longer than the post-contact period in which we are now living.
A biologist and environmental scientist, Dr. Jennifer Frick Ruppert’s The Legend of Skyco greatly expands part of that forgotten world. It is based on the writings of explorers, the contemporary watercolors of John White, folklore and Frick-Ruppert’s masterful knowledge of Chowan River basin wildlife. The Chowan River itself it is frequently overlooked in North Carolina histories, yet the first explorers saw it as a key path to settlement and several nations lived in and around it.
The Skyco of Frick-Ruppert’s book is based on an actual heir to the Chowanook nation leadership in 1586. The author imagines Skyco as an observant, thoughtful and respectful boy who is rising to leadership even before he passes to manhood. Growing up in a stable community with its order of worship, family, friendships and self-sustainment, Skyco is further introduced to the adult ways of diplomacy, hunting, fishing, planting and more importantly, he is taught to connect to the wisdom and spirits that will guide him to the expected leadership of the Chowanook nation.
I am a descendant of a fairly well-known Chowanoke or Chowanook family and have written about them. I grew up near the Chowan River and have fished, canoed and hunted in and around its waters. Before The Legend of Skyco, the only book that best illuminated the world of Carolina Algonkians was Dr. Micheal Leroy Oberg’s The Head in Edward Nugent’s Hand. I am grateful for Oberg’s book that tells of that world’s destruction from the view of the Chowanoke and related groups. My thankfulness extends to Frick-Ruppert’s The Legend of Skyco for giving great value to Chowanoke life before the coming of the English."
-Marvin T. Jones is the founder of Chowan Discovery Group whose mission is to document, research, preserve and present the history of the Winton Triangle, a 275 year-old landowning mixed race community in the Chowan River basin.(Marvin T. Jones)
"...an important book for our mainstream urban-industrial culture that in general has little knowledge of the natural world and essentially no initiation rites, ceremonies, nor celebrations for young men or women coming of age. Nothing that deliberately defines those transitions from one stage of life to another. But this book is just as entertaining as it is informative. In essence it’s a great ride in a literary time machine that takes us back to what some might say was “a better time.” When things were just as God or The Great Spirit made them and when we humans were more at home and at one with it all. Lucky are we to be travelers on this great ride with Jennifer Frick-Ruppert and the historical characters she has brought back to life through her fiction." - Thomas Crowe, The Smoky Mountain News(Thomas Crowe)
From the Back Cover
Skyco, an Algonquin boy, is heir to the great chief Menatonon, but he has much to learn before he can take his place within the tribe. After helping rescue the tribe's shaman, Roncommock, from a bear attack, Skyco learns that the bear is his spirit animal and will guide him on his quest to become a man.
Roncommock teaches Skyco how to enter the spirit world and communicate not just with the spirits who guide their people, but also how to connect with the animals around them. He steps into the bodies and minds of an ant, a fish, and a bird, and each show him something new about the world―knowledge that he will need to be a great leader. He also learns other practical skills like hunting, canoe building, and how to start a fire.
Learning to properly use an atlatl and a bow are just precursors to Skyco's ultimate test, the husquenaugh, when Skyco is challenged to use his hard-earned skills to survive the harrowing, life-or-death ritual. Can Skyco pass the ultimate test and take his rightful place as heir?
A book of rousing adventure and historical relevance, The Legend of Skyco: Spirit Quest brings to life the world of the Algonquin tribe before the arrival of English explorers.