Bear Mother Story
In February, 2000 I met with a group of children ages 5 - 8 who were enrolled in the school program offered at the Namaste Retreat Center outside Portland, Oregon. I gathered some 'helpers' from the Foundation for Shamanic Studies 2 week program who served as back-up drummers while I shared tribal stories with the children. I shared with them that my Lakota name indicated I was of the "Owl clan" but that I was also a BearMedicineWoman and wanted to share with them the "big, wonderful and magical stories of the BearPeople." As our time together evolved, soon the children themselves seemed as cubs; I felt like some aged joyful Keeper of the Mysteries of the BearPeople. The drawing was done and given to me by Joanne Halverson. Her inscription: "Big Owl-Bear Grandmother teaching/healing and playing with the children."
I hope the stories, sagas and poems in these pages awaken the wonder within us all and we share our stories with children everywhere.
Bear Mother Story
Long ago, a group of girls of the tribe were out gathering huckleberries. One among them was a bit of a chatterbox, who should have been singing to tell the bears of her presence instead of laughing and talking. The bears, who could hear her even though some distance away, wondered if she was mocking them in her babbling. By the time the berry-pickers started home, the bears were watching.
As she followed at the end of the group, the girls foot slipped in some bear dung and her forehead strap, which held the pack filled with berries to her back, broke. She let out an angry laugh. The others went on. Again she should have sung but she only complained. The bears noted this and said "Does she speak of us?" It was growing dark. Near her appeared two young men who looked like brothers. One said, "Come with us and we will help you with your berries." As the girl followed them, she saw that they wore bear robes.
It was dark when they arrived at a large house near a rock slide high on the mountain slope. All of the people inside, sitting around a small fire, were wearing bearskins also. Grandmother Mouse ran up to the girl and squeaked to her that she had been taken into the bear den and was to become one of them. The hair on her robe was already longer and more like a bears. She was frightened. One of the young bears, the son of a chief, came up to her and said, "You will live if you become my wife. Otherwise you will die."
She lived on as the wife of the bear, tending the fire in the dark house. She noticed that whenever the Bear People went outside they put on their bear coats and became like the animal. In the winter she was pregnant, and her husband took her to a cliff cave near the old home, where she gave birth to twins, which were half human and half bear.
One day her brothers came searching for her, and the Bear Wife knew she must reveal her presence. She rolled a snowball down the mountainside to draw their attention, and they climbed up the rock slide. The Bear Husband knew that he must die, but before he was killed by the womans brothers, he taught her and the Bear Sons the songs that the hunters must use over his dead body to ensure their good luck. He willed his skin to her father, who was a tribal chief. The young men then killed the bear, smoking him out of the cave and spearing him. They spared the two children, taking them with the Bear Wife back to her people.
The Bear Sons removed their bear coats and became great hunters. They guided their kinsmen to bear dens in the mountains and showed them how to set snares, and they instructed the people in singing the ritual songs. Many years later, when their mother died, they put on their coast again and went back to live with the Bear People, but the tribe continued to have good fortune with their hunting.
(Another version has the Bear Mother, after her sons are grown, returning to the Cave of the Bear people. There she watches over and promises protection to lost humans. She also provides guidance to those who come regarding the medicine powers that are known to be possessed by Bears.)
The story concerning the Bear family was revealed through a descendant of the original hero of the following tale. He owned a very old powder horn bearing an incised representation of his mother, who was a Bear, seated in the bow of a canoe traveling to the hunting grounds with her husband.
Many, many generations ago, a Penobscot, his wife, and their little son started out from their village to go to Canada. They were from Penobscot Bay, bound for a great council and dance to be held at the Iroquois village of Caughnawaga. They went upriver to the point where they had to make a 20-mile portage to reach another river that would take them to the St. Lawrence.
The man started ahead with the canoe on his back, leaving his wife to pack part of the luggage to their first overnight campsite. The little boy ran alongside of her. While she was busy arranging her pack, her son ran on ahead to catch up with his father.
The man had gone so far ahead, the boy became lost. The mother assumed the boy was with his father.
When she arrived at the campground, they discovered that their son was with neither of them. They began a search immediately, but they could not find him.
The parents returned home to tell their story to their tribe. All of the men turned out for a wide search party, which lasted for several months without success. In March of the next year, the Penobscots found some sharpened sticks near the river. They concluded that the boy must be alive and had been spearing fish. Footprints of bears were seen, and they thought perhaps the boy had been adopted by a bear family.
In the village, there was a lazy man who did not enter into the search, but lay around idly. Everyone asked him, "Why dont you help hunt for the boy? You seem to be good for nothing."
"Very well, I will," he replied. He went right to the bears den and knocked with his bow on the rocks at the entrance. Inside, a great noise arose where the father, mother, baby bear, and adopted boy lived. The fatherbear went to the entrance, holding out a birch-bark vessel. The lazy man shot at it and killed the bear. The mother-bear says, "Now I will go." She took another vessel, held it out at the entrance, and also was killed. The baby bear did the same and was killed. All of the bears were laid out dead in the cave. Then the lazy man entered and saw the little boy terribly afraid and huddled in a dark corner, crying for his relatives and trying to hide.
The lazy hunter gently carried him home to the village and gave him to his parents. Everyone gave the lazy man presents: two blankets, a canoe, knives, and other good things. He became rich overnight. The boys parents, however, noticed that their son seemed to be turning into a bear. Bristles were showing on his upper back and shoulders, and his manners had changed. Finally they helped him to become a real person again, and he grew up to be a Penobscot Indian like his father. He married and had children. Forever after he and all of his descendants were called Bears.
They drew pictures of bears on pieces of birch-bark with charcoal and left them at camps wherever they went. All of their descendants seemed to do this and declare, "I am one of the Bear family."
(Story from a Flathead Indian Woman - Montana)
One day when she was a girl just about six or seven winters, her mother told her they were going berrying in the mountains. They rode double on her horse and went high into the mountains. It was getting late in the evening. The girl saw a patch of bushes and told her mother, "Look, there are some berries and plenty of them."
Her mother said, "Child have patience, a little farther up is the place where we will get our berries."
So they went on and on until the sun was just about going down when her mother stopped their horse and said "Here is the place where we are going to pick."
They got off their horse, her Mother picked some berries, put them on the ground for the young girl and said, "Sit here and eat on these berries while I go down here to see if there are more below."
Her mother spread out the young girls robe and the girl began eating the berries. Her mother got on the horse and reminded the young girl to stay where she was and said she would be back soon. Then she disappeared in the bushes. The young girl was not afraid. She ate berries and talked to herself about the trees. Soon she saw night was coming and her Mother had still not returned. She became frightened and began calling for her mother. She called and called but saw no sign of her. Then she became increasingly frightened and began crying, all the time calling and calling for her mother. She cried all night long but her mother still did not return. She was sure her Mother had left her, gone back home leaving the little girl alone in the high mountains.
Finally when she could not cry any longer, she got up and too her robe and walked not knowing where she was going. It was still night and very, very dark. She walked on and on until she got very tired and sleepy and lay down and went to sleep. When she woke up the sun was way p already, it was nice and warm. At first she thought she was sleeping with her mother at home. Then she remember she was high in the mountains and her mother was not there. She started to cry again.
When she stopped crying, she began to walk and eat the berries growing there on the mountain. She kept on until she got to a deep gulch fully covered with trees. While she sat there she thought of her home and her mother. She began to cry again. Then she barely heard a sound that she thought was human voices. She listened closely but heard nothing and thought it must be the cry of a bird or something. Then she heard the sound again, and as she listened she heard it again and again and knew it was the sound of humans laughing and talking loudly way down in the bottom of the gulch. She could not see them as it was covered all over with trees and bushes but she could tell they were coming toward her.
Just where she was sitting was on a ridge and below on the hillside was an open bald place. The sound came from that way and she was watching closely and was surprised with joy to see a woman with two little ones coming. She thought it was someone from her tribe. They were running and chasing each other. Laughing and shouting, they came pretty close. She saw the woman was a very handsome woman, well clothed all in buckskin and clean. One of the children was a boy and one was a girl. They were also well dressed, all in buckskin.
This woman said to the girl, "Poor girl, this is not the place for you especially to be alone. I am sure you are thirsty by this time. Come, we will bring you down to the stream to drink." Then she told her children, "Do not bother your little sister, she is thirsty and tired."
When they got to the stream, they all had a good drink. The little girl was the last to finish her drink and when she stood and looked, instead of seeing her little sister and brother and mother, there was sitting there a grizzly bear and two cubs. She was afraid. The bear spoke, "Do not be afraid, little child. I am your mother bear and here is your little brother and sister. We will not hurt you."
Then the Bear told her her: "Listen closely. I am going to give you medicine power by which you will be a great help to your people in the future. This time will come after you pass middle age. But do not try to do more than I am allowing you or granting you because, if you do, it will be nothing more than false and you will be responsible for sufferings and even death. One of my gifts is that you are going to be helpful to women especially those that are having hard times and suffering giving the birth of a child." She said this. Then the grizzly bear mother and her cubs took the young girl back to her people.
Whenever Wankandon went hunting on the mountain, he took care to think as little as possible of the Spirit of the Bear. For it is well known that whoever can see Bear without being seen by him will become the mightiest hunter of his generation, but he can never be seen by anybody who is thinking about him.
On the other hand, if a tribesman should himself be seen by the Spirit of the Bear Walking, there is no knowing what might happen. Hunters who have gone up on the mountain and never come back are supposed to have met with him. So between hope of seeing and fear of being seen, it is nearly impossible to hunt on the mountain without thinking of Bear.
Wankandon alone hoped to accomplish the impossible. He might have managed it at the time his thoughts were all taken up with wondering whether the daughter of the Medicine Man could be persuaded to marry him, but at that time he did not hunt at all. He spent his time waiting at the spring where the maidens came with their mothers to fill their water bottles, making a little flute of four notes and playing on it. After he was married, however, he tried again to dispossess his mind of the thought of Bear. "For", he said, "when my son is born he will have pride in me, and keep a soft place in the hut for the man who was the mightiest hunter of his generation." Thus it was that he never went out to hunt on the mountain without thinking both of his son and the Bear Walking.
In due time the son was born and thought Wankandon had not yet become the mightiest hunter, he was very happy. Always when he went on the mountain he remembered his wish and so missed it.
In the course of year the tribe fell into war with the people of the north and the son of Wankandon went out to his first battle. But, as it turned out, the battle went against the tribe and the son of Wakandon was brought home shot full of arrows. Then the heart of Wankandan broke when he buried him. He said, "Let me go, I will build a fire on the mountain to light the feet of my sons spirit and then I will lament him."
Clad in all his war gear he went up on the mountain and all the way he thought only of his son and how he should miss him. So, when he had lighted the spirit fire, he said "Oh, my son, what profit shall I have of my life now you are departed." And as he wept he saw something moving on the slope before him. He looked, for his eyes were by no means as keen as they had been, and behold, it was the Spirit of the Bear Walking.
In the long ago time, there was a Cherokee Clan call the Ani-Tsa-gu-hi (Ahnee-Jah-goo-hee), and in one family of this clan was a boy who used to leave home and be gone all day in the mountains. After a while he went oftener and stayed longer, until at last he would not eat in the house at all, but started off at daybreak and did not come back until night. His parents scolded, but that did no good, and the boy still went every day until they noticed that long brown hair was beginning to grow out all over his body. Then they wondered and asked him why it was that he wanted to be so much in the woods that he would not even eat at home.
Said the boy, "I find plenty to eat there, and it is better than the corn and beans we have in the settlements, and pretty soon I am going into the woods to say all the time." His parents were worried and begged him not leave them, but he said, "It is better there than here, and you see I am beginning to be different already, so that I can not live here any longer. If you will come with me, there is plenty for all of us and you will never have to work for it; but if you want to come, you must first fast seven days."
The father and mother talked it over and then told the headmen of the clan. They held a council about the matter and after everything had been said they decided: "Here we must work hard and have not always enough. There he says is always plenty without work. We will go with him." So they fasted seven days, and on the seventh morning al the Ani-Tsa-gu-hi left the settlement and started for the mountains as the boy led the way.
When the people of the other towns heard of it they were very sorry and sent their headmen to persuade the Ani Tsaguhi to stay at home and not go into the woods to live. The messengers found them already on the way, and were surprised to notice that their bodies were beginning to be covered with hair like that of animals, because for seven days they had not taken human food and their nature was changing. The Ani Tsaguhi would not come back, but said, "We are going where there is always plenty to eat. Hereafter we shall be called Yonv(a) (bears), and when you yourselves are hungry come into the woods and call us and we shall shall come to give you our own flesh. You need not be afraid to kill us, for we shall live always."
Then they taught the messengers the songs with which to call them and bear hunters have these songs still. When they had finished the songs, the Ani Tsaguhi started on again and the messengers turned back to the settlements, but after going a little way they looked back and saw a drove of bears going into the woods. Aho! We are all Related!
Now in the Old Time there lived a boy called Sigo, whose father had died when he was a baby. Sigo was too young to hunt and provide food for the wigwam, so his mother was obliged to take another husband, a jealous spiteful man who soon came to dislike his small stepson, for he thought the mother cared more for the child than for himself. He thought of a plan to be rid of the boy.
"Wife," said he, "it is time the boy learned something of the forest. I will take him with me today, hunting."
"Oh no!" cried his wife. "Sigo is far too young!"
But the husband snatched the boy and took him into the forest, while the mother wept, for she knew her husbands jealous heart.
The stepfather knew of a cave deep in the forest, a deep cave that led into a rocky hill. To this cave, he led his stepson and told him to go inside and hunt for the tracks of rabbit. The boy hung back.
"It is dark in there. I am afraid."
"Afraid!" scoffed the man. "A fine hunter youll make," and he pushed the boy roughly into the cave. "Stay in there until I tell you to come out."
Then the stepfather took a pole and thrust it under a huge boulder so that it tumbled over and covered the mouth of the cave completely. He knew well there was no other opening. The boy was shut in for good and would soon die of starvation.
The stepfather left the place, intending to tell the boys mother that her son had been disobedient, had run off and got lost, and he had been unable to find him. He would not return home at once. He would let time pass, as if he had been looking for the boy. Another idea occurred to him. He would spend the time on Blomidons beach and collect some of Glooscaps purple stones to take as a peace offering to his wife. She might suspect, but nothing could be proved, and nobody would ever know what had happened.
Nobody? There was one who knew already. Glooscap the Great Chief was well aware of what had happened and he was angry, very angry. He struck his great spear into the red stone of Blomidon and the clip split. Earth and stones tumbled down, down, down to the beach, burying the wicked stepfather and killing him instantly.
Then Glooscap called upon a faithful servant, Porcupine, and told him what he was to do.
In the dark cave in the hillside, Sigo cried out his loneliness and fear. He was only six after all, and he wanted his mother. Suddenly he heard a voice.
"Sigo! Come this way."
He saw two glowing eyes and went towards them, trembling. The eyes grew bigger and brighter and at last he could see they belonged to an old porcupine.
"Dont cry any more, my son," said Porcupine. "I am here to help you," and the boy was afraid no longer.
He watched as Porcupine went to the cave entrance and tried to push away the stone, but the stone was too heavy. Porcupine put his lips to the crack of light between boulder and hill side and called out:
"Friends of Glooscap! Come around, all of you!"
The animals and birds heard him and cameWolf, Raccoon, Caribou, Turtle, Possum, Rabbit, and Squirrel, and birds of all kinds from Turkey to Hummingbird.
"A boy has been left here to die," called the old Porcupine from inside the cave. "I am not strong enough to move the rock. Help us or we are lost."
The animals called back that they would try. First Raccoon marched up and tried to wrap his arms around the stone, but they were much too short. Then Fox came and bit and scratched at the boulder, but he only made his lips bleed. Then Caribou stepped up and, thrusting her long antlers into the crack, she tried to pry the stone loose, but only broke off one of her antlers. It was no use. In the end, all gave up. They could not move the stone.
"Kwah-ee," a new voice spoke. "What is going on?" They turned and saw Mooinskw, which means SheBear, who had come quietly out of the woods. Some of the smaller animals were frightened and hid, but the others told Mooinskw what had happened. She promptly embraced the boulder in the caves mouth and heaved with all her great strength. With a rumble and a crash, the stone rolled over. Then out came Sigo and Porcupine, joyfully.
Porcupine thanked the animals for their help and said, "Now I must find someone to take care of this boy and bring him up. My food is not the best for him. Perhaps there is someone here whose diet will suit him better. The boy is hungrywho will bring him food ?"
All scattered at once in search of food. Robin was the first to return, and he laid down worms before the boy, but Sigo could not eat them. Beaver came next, with bark, but the boy shook his head. Others brought seeds and insects, but Sigo, hungry as he was, could not touch any of them, At last came Mooinskw and held out a flat cake made of blue berries. The boy seized it eagerly and ate.
"Oh, how good it is," he cried. And Porcupine nodded wisely. "From now on," he said, "Mooinskw will be this boys foster mother."
So Sigo went to live with the bears. Besides the mother bear, there were two boy cubs and a girl cub. All were pleased to have a new brother and they soon taught Sigo all their tricks and all the secrets of the forest, and Sigo was happy with his new-found family. Gradually, he forgot his old life. Even the face of his mother grew dim in memory and, walking often on all fours as the bears did, he almost began to think he was a bear.
One spring when Sigo was ten, the bears went fishing for smelts. Mooinskw walked into the water, seated herself on her haunches and commenced seizing the smelts and tossing them out on the bank to the children. All were enjoying themselves greatly when suddenly Mooinskw plunged to the shore, crying, "Come children, hurry!" She had caught the scent of man. "Run for your lives!"
As they ran, she stayed behind them, guarding them, until at last they were safe at home.
"What animal was that, Mother?" asked Sigo.
"That was a hunter," said his foster-mother, "a human like yourself, who kills bears for food." And she warned them all to be very watchful from now on. "You must always run from the sight or scent of a hunter."
Not long afterwards, the bear family went with other bear families to pick blueberries for the winter. The small ones soon tired of picking and the oldest cub had a sudden mischievous thought.
"Chase me towards the crowd," he told Sigo, "just as men do when they hunt bears. The others will be frightened and run away. Then we can have all the berries for ourselves."
So Sigo began to chase his brothers towards the other bears, whooping loudly, and the bears at once scattered in all directions. All, that is, except the mother bear who recognized the voice of her adopted son. "Offspring of Lox!" she cried. "What mischief are you up to now?" And she rounded up the children and spanked them soundly, Sigo too.
So the sun crossed the sky each day and the days grew shorter. At last the mother bear led her family to their winter quarters in a large hollow tree. For half the winter they were happy and safe, with plenty of blueberry cakes to keep them from being hungry. Then, one sad day, the hunters found the tree. Seeing the scratches on its trunk, they guessed that bears were inside, and they prepared to smoke them out into the open.
Mooinskw knew well enough what was about to happen and that not all would escape.
"I must go out first," she said, "and attract the mans attention, while you two cubs jump out and run away. Then you, Sigo, show yourself and plead for your little sister. Perhaps they will spare her for your sake." And thus it happened, just as the brave and loving mother bear had said.
As soon as she climbed down from the tree, the Indians shot her dead, but the two male cubs had time to escape. Then Sigo rushed out, crying: "I am a human, like you. Spare the she-cub, my adopted sister."
The amazed Indians put down their arrows and spears and, when they had heard Sigos story, they gladly spared the little she- bear and were sorry they had killed Mooinskw who had been so good to an Indian child.
Sigo wept over the body of his foster mother and made a solemn vow.
"I shall be called Mooin, the bears son, from this day forwards. And when I am grown, and a hunter, never will I kill a mother bear, or bear children!"
And Mooin never did.
With his foster sister, he returned to his old village, to the great joy of his Indian mother, who cared tenderly for the she- cub until she was old enough to care for herself.
And ever since then, when Indians see smoke rising from a hollow tree, they know a mother bear is in there cooking food for her children, and they leave that tree alone.
One time before there were any people around this place, there were Bear people. Long ago, those Bears came to the River to dance. Sometimes they danced all soft and furry and sometimes their wild fur threw sparks electric in the air. Sometimes they showed their teeth and their claws and other times their soft bellies. But every time they danced, they came to the River to dance. And every time they danced the Salmon people came. They swam in celebration of the River, leaping high into the air above the water, arching in the foam, sending rainbows flashing into the eyes of the Bears.
The Bears and the Salmon had an agreement and always it was so between them. The Bears danced and the Salmon people came and everyone took what they needed.
But the Bear people and the Salmon people had made no agreement with the River. No one thought it was necessary - but it was.
One fall the River pulled itself back into the shore trees and it would not let the Salmon enter. Whenever they tried the River would pull back and leave them stranded on the beach.
There was a long argument and a lot of talk. Finally the River allowed the Salmon to enter but when they reached the place where the Bears lived, the River suddenly began to run in two directions, roaring and heaving and throwing big boulders up onto the banks. Then the River was still.
The Salmon were afraid; the Bears were looking out from behind the trees. Then in all that silence the River said "There has to be an agreement. No one could just do something, whatever they wanted. You could not just take someone for granted."
For several days they spoke about it. The Salmon said who they were and where they came from. The Bears spoke about the power they had been given, The River spoke about the agreement with the wind, the rain and the crayfish. And everybody said what they needed and what they would give away.
And then a very odd thing happened: the River said that it loved the salmon. No one had ever said anything like this before. No one had taken that chance. It was the honesty that pleased everyone. It made for a deep agreement between them. They reached an understanding about their obligation to one another and everyone went their own way.
This remains unchanged. Time has nothing to do with this. When you feel the River shudder against your legs, you are feeling the presence of all those agreements.
Mahto was a very small bear when he came into this world. He was born in a cave deep within the earth and was not big enough to harm anybody. His mother called him Mahtociqala in the language of the people.
When his mother awoke from her long sleep, she took Small Bear out into the bright sunshine of spring."What are these creatures flying high above my head?" asked Small Bear. "Wambli," his mother replied in her low gruff voice. "It is from Eagle that we learn to live our life in dignity. " "Eagles eyes are keener than our own, so we always listen to warnings he sends from above."
Small Bears mother led him across the sweet-smelling meadow to the edge of a river where she would teach him to drink. He put his nose into the cold, clear water and took a taste. The shock of the rushing water made him instantly alert and watchful. Many years later, when he had grown into his warrior name, Mahto would remember his first drink. Whenever he needed clarity of thought or alertness for hunting, he would plunge himself into the river to prepare himself for the task.
Mahto remembered his early days with fondness, for his mother was a great teacher. She always protected him and gave him guidance for living the fullness of life.
She taught him how to hunt for grubs inside the rotting trunks of fallen fir trees. She taught him which flowers and grasses were sweetest, which roots would make him strong, and which berries would fill out his flesh for his first long winters sleep.
And she taught him how to catch the red fish as they came crashing up against him in the slippery river. Mahtos mother showed him a special place between two craggy rocks where he could lodge himself.
"Wait quietly and with patience in this place," she said, "and the great red flashing, thrashing things will jump right into your mouth."
And so it was that the people learned to fish......by watching Mahto and his mother. From that time forth, Mahto and the people never went hungry, as long as he and his brothers could be seen fishing in the river. And the people sang praises and danced for the gift of Mahto and his Mother.
* Mahto ... (mah-TOH) ... Grizzly bear
* Mahtociqala ... (mah-TOH-CHEE-q-ah-lah) ... small bear
* Wambli ...(wahm-BLEE) ... wingflapper (eagle)
Chipmunk and Bear
Long ago when animals could talk, a bear was walking along. Now it has always been said that bears think very highly of themselves. Since they are big and strong, they are certain that they are the most important of the animals.
As this bear went along turning over big logs with his paws to look for food to eat, he felt very sure of himself. "There is nothing I cannot do," said this bear.
"Is that so?" said a small voice. Bear looked down. There was a little chipmunk looking up at Bear from its hole in the ground.
"Yes," Bear said, "that is true indeed." He reached out one huge paw and rolled over a big log. "Look at how easily I can do this. I am the strongest of all the animals. I can do anything. All the other animals fear me."
"Can you stop the sun from rising in the morning?" said the Chipmunk.
Bear thought for a moment. "I have never tried that," he said. "Yes, I am sure I could stop the sun from rising."
"You are sure?" said Chipmunk.
"I am sure," said Bear. "Tomorrow morning the sun will not rise. I, Bear, have said so."
Bear sat down facing the east to wait.
Behind him the sun set for the night and still he sat there. The chipmunk went into its hole and curled up in its snug little nest, chuckling about how foolish Bear was.
All through the night Bear sat. Finally the first birds started their songs and the east glowed with the light which comes before the sun.
"The sun will not rise today," said Bear. He stared hard at the glowing light. "The sun will not rise today." However, the sun rose, just as it always had. Bear was very upset, but Chipmunk was delighted. He laughed and laughed. "Sun is stronger than Bear," said the chipmunk, twittering with laughter. Chipmunk was so amused that he came out of his hole and began running around in circles, singing this song:
"The sun came up,
The sun came up.
Bear is angry,
But the sun came up."
While Bear sat there looking very unhappy, Chipmunk ran around and around, singing and laughing until he was so weak that he rolled over on his back. Then, quicker than the leap of a fish from a stream,
Bear shot out one big paw and pinned him to the ground.
"Perhaps I cannot stop the sun from rising," said Bear, "but you will never see another sunrise."
Oh, Bear," said the chipmunk. "oh, oh, oh, you are the strongest, you are the quickest, you are the best of all of the animals. I was only joking." But Bear did not move his paw.
"Oh, Bear," Chipmunk said, "you are right to kill me, I deserve to die. Just please let me say one last prayer to Creator before you eat me."
"Say your prayer quickly," said Bear. "Your time to walk the Sky Road has come!"
"Oh, Bear," said Chipmunk, "I would like to die. But you are pressing down on me so hard I cannot breathe. I can hardly squeak. I do not have enough breath to say a prayer. If you would just lift your paw a little, just a little bit, then I could breathe. And I could say my last prayer to the Maker of all, to the one who made great, wise, powerful Bear and the foolish, weak, little Chipmunk. "
Bear lifted up his paw. He lifted it just a little bit. That little bit, though, was enough. Chipmunk squirmed free and ran for his hole as quickly as the blinking of an eye. Bear swung his paw at the little chipmunk as it darted away. He was not quick enough to catch him, but the very tips of his long claws scraped along Chipmunks back leaving three pale scars.
To this day, all chipmunks wear those scars as a reminder to them of what happens when one animal makes fun to another.
Back in the old days, Bear had a tail which was his proudest possession. It was long and black and glossy and Bear used to wave it around just so that people would look at it. Fox saw this. Fox, as everyone knows, is a trickster and likes nothing better than fooling others. So it was that he decided to play a trick on Bear. It was the time of year when Hatho, the Spirit of Frost, had swept across the land, covering the lakes with ice and pounding on the trees with his big hammer. Fox made a hole in the ice, right near a place where
Bear liked to walk. By the time Bear came by, all around Fox, in a big circle, were big trout and fat perch. Just as Bear was about to ask Fox what he was doing, Fox twitched his tail which he had sticking through that hole in the ice and pulled out a huge trout.
"Greetings, Brother," said Fox. "How are you this fine day?"
"Greetings," answered Bear, looking at the big circle of fat fish. " I am well, Brother. But what are you doing?"
"I am fishing," answered Fox. "Would you like to try?"
"Oh, yes," said Bear, as he started to lumber over to Foxs fishing hole.
But Fox stopped him. "Wait, Brother," he said, "This place will not be good. As you can see, I have already caught all the fish. Let us make you a new fishing spot where you can catch many big trout."
Bear agreed and so he followed Fox to the new place, a place where, as Fox knew very well, the lake was too shallow to catch the winter fishwhich always stay in the deepest water when Hatho has covered their ponds. Bear watched as Fox made the hole in the ice, already tasting the fine fish he would soon catch. "Now," Fox said, "you must do just as I tell you. Clear your mind of all thoughts of fish. Do not even think of a song or the fish will hear you. Turn your back to the hole and place your tail inside it. Soon a fish will come and grab your tail and you can pull him out."
"But how will I know if a fish has grabbed my tail if my back is turned?" asked Bear.
"I will hide over here where the fish cannot see me," said Fox. "When a fish grabs your tail, I will shout. Then you must pull as hard as you can to catch your fish. But you must be very patient. Do not move at all until I tell you."
Bear nodded, "I will do exactly as you say." He sat down next to the hole, placed his long beautiful black tail in the icy water and turned his back.
Fox watched for a time to make sure that Bear was doing as he was told and then, very quietly, sneaked back to his own house and went to bed. The next morning he woke up and thought of Bear. "I wonder if he is still there," Fox said to himself. "Ill just go and check."
So Fox went back to the ice covered pond and what do you think he saw? He saw what looked like a little white hill in the middle of the ice. It had snowed during the night and covered Bear, who had fallen asleep while waiting for Fox to tell him to pull his tail and catch a fish. And Bear was snoring. His snores were so loud that the ice was shaking. It was so funny that Fox rolled with laughter. But when he was through laughing, he decided the time had come to wake up poor Bear. He crept very close to Bears ear, took a deep breath, and then shouted: "Now, Bear!!!"
Bear woke up with a start and pulled his long tail hard as he could. But his tail had been caught in the ice which had frozen over during the night and as he pulled, it broke off Whack! just like that. Bear turned around to look at the fish he had caught and instead saw his long lovely tail caught in the ice.
"Ohhh," he moaned, "ohhh, Fox. I will get you for this." But Fox, even though he was laughing fit to kill was still faster than Bear and he leaped aside and was gone.
So it is that even to this day Bears have short tails and no love at all for Fox. And if you ever hear a bear moaning, it is probably because he remembers the trick Fox played on him long ago and he is mourning for his lost tail.
by Joaquin Miller
Before people were on the Earth, the Chief of the Great Sky Spirits grew tired of his home in the Above World because it was always cold. So he made a hole in the sky by turning a stone around and around. Through the hole he pushed snow and ice until he made a big mound. This mound was Mount Shasta.
Then Sky Spirit stepped from the sky to the mountain and walked down. When he got about halfway down, he thought: "On this mountain there should be trees." So he put his finger down and eveywhere he touched, up sprang trees. Everywhere he stepped, the snow melted and became rivers. The Sky Spirit broke off the end of his big walking stick he had carried from the sky and threw the pieces in the water. The long pieces became Beaver and Otter. The smaller pieces became fish. From the other end of his stick he made the animals.
Biggest of all was Grizzly Bear. They were covered with fur and had sharp claws ust like today, but they could walk on their hind feet and talk. They were so fierce looking that the Sky Spirit sent them to live at the bottom of the mountain.
When the leaves fell from the trees, Sky Spirit blew on them and made the birds. Then Sky Spirit decided to stay on the Earth and sent for his family. Mount Shasta became their lodge. He made a BIG fire in the middle of the mountain and a hole in the top for the smoke and sparks. Every time he threw a really big log on the fire, the Earth would tremble and sparks would fly from the top of the mountain.
Late one spring, Wind Spirit was blowing so hard that it blew the smoke back down the hole and burned the eyes of Sky Spirits family. Sky Spirit told his youngest daughter to go tell Wind Spirit not to blow so hard. Sky Spirit warned his daughter: "When you get to the top, dont poke your head out. The wind might catch your hair and pull you out. Just put your arm through and make a sign and then speak to Wind Spirit."
The little girl hurried to the top of the mountain and spoke to Wind Spirit. As she started back down, she remembered that her father had told her that the ocean could be seen from the top of the mountain. He had made the ocean since moving his family to the mountain and his daughter had never seen it.
She put her head out of the hole and looked to the west. The Wind Spirit caught her hair and pulled her out of the mountain. She flew over the ice and snow and landed in the scrubby fir trees at the timberline, her long red hair flowing over the snow.
There Grizzly Bear found her. He carried the little girl home with him wondering who she was. Mother Grizzly Bear took care of her and brought her up with her cubs. The little girl and the cubs grew up together. When she bacame a young woman, she and the eldest son of Gizzly Bear were married. In the years that followed they had many children. The children didnt look like their father or their mother. All the grizzly bears throughout the forest were proud of these new creatures. They were so pleased, they made a new lodge for the red-haired mother and her strange looking children. They called the Lodge LittleMount Shasta.
Ater many years had passed, Mother Grizzly Bear knew that she would soon die. Fearing that she had done wrong in keeping the little girl, she felt she should send word to the Chief of the Sky Spirits and ask his forgiveness. So she gathered all the grizzlies at Little Mount Shasta and sent her oldest grandson to the top of Mount Shasta, in a cloud, to tell the Spirit Chief where he could find his daughter.
The father was very glad. He came down the mountain in great strides. He hurried so fast the snow melted. His tracks can be seen to this day. As he neared the lodge, he called out for his daughter.He expected to see a little girl exactly as he saw her last. When he saw the strange creatures his daughter was taking care of, he was surprised to learn that they were his grandchildren and he was very angry. He looked so sternly at the old grandmother that she died at once. Then he cursed all the grizzlies.
"Get down on your hands and knees. From this moment on all grizzlies shall walk on four feet. And you shall never talk again. You have wronged me."
He drove his grandchildren out of the lodge, threw his daughter over his shoulder and climbed back up the mountain. Never again did he come to the forest. Some say he put out the fire in the center of his lodge and returned to the sky with his daughter.
Those strange grandchildren scattered and wandered over the earth. They were the first Indians, the ancestors of all the Indian Tribes. That is why the Indians living around Mount Shasta never kill Grizzly Bear. Whenever one of them was killed by a grizzly bear, his body was burned on the spot. And for many years all who passed that way cast a stone there until a great pile of stones marked the place of his death.