Manataka American Indian Council
MOTHER BEAR STORY
Long ago a group of girls of the tribe were gathering huckleberries. One girl among them was a bit of a chatterbox, who should have been singing to the Bears to tell him of here presence instead of laughing and talking.
The Bears who heard the girl even from some distance away wondered if the girl was mocking them in her babble. The Bears came investigate and watched the girls closely as the began their journey back to the village.
As the babbling girl followed at the end of the group, her foot suddenly slipped in bear dung and her forehead strap, that held the pack filled with huckleberries, broke with a snap! She let out angry words as the others went ahead.
The Bears whispered among themselves saying, "Does this girl speak of us?" Who is she to be mad at us? What have we done to deserve all this mocking?
Again, the girl should have sung to the bears.
It was growing dark as the babbling girl lagged far behind the group while struggling with the full broken basket. As she was grumbling, two young men, who looked very much alike, approached her and invited the girl to allow them to carry her basket to a nearby shelter. She saw that both young men wore bear robes and special paint signs, but was happy to have the help with her heavy load and what they wore or their special medicine made no difference to her.
It was very dark when they arrived at a large lodge near a rock slide high on the mountainside. Inside, sitting around a great fire, were many people all wearing bear robes. Everyone ignored the grumbling girl who demanded to be taken to her village.
Again, it was a time when she should have been singing instead of being angry.
In the shadows of the lodge Grandmother Mouse sneaked beside the angry girl and squeaked. Bending closer the girl heard the disapproving words of Grandmother Mouse.
"You silly girl, you have been taken to the Bear's den and they plan to eat you!
"Oh my!" exclaimed the girl. "This cannot be happening to me!"
"Shhh," said Grandmother Mouse holding her paw to her lips. "Be quite, I have a plan to save you, but you must do exactly as I say."
"Yes, Grandmother," the girl whispered as she choked back a sob.
Grandmother Mouse motioned for the girl to lean closer as she squeaked, "You must become one of them if you wish to live. If you join this clan they cannot eat you."
Understanding these instructions, the girl got up with her basket and went to the son of the Bear chief. "I give to you, oh great honored brother, a gift of these huckleberries as a token of my respect and love for you and your people."
The chief's son stood up facing the girl and said, "You will live if you become my wife, otherwise you will die." At that, all the Bear people began to growl and snort loudly.
Frightened out of her wits, the girl instantly agreed to become his wife and a short time later, she was gifted with a bear robe of her own. As she sat in the flickering fire light listening to plans for the ceremony amid grunts and grumbles of the Bear people, the hair on her robe began to grow long and longer.
For many seasons she lived as the son's wife among the Bear people. She tended their fires and cleaned the lodge. Every day when she cleaned the lodge, she quietly slipped leftover scraps of food to Grandmother Mouse in thanks for saving her life.
When the Bear people went outside they all put on their bear coats and began to act just like the animal. Before the start of summer, she became pregnant and her husband took her to a special place inside a deep dark cave. There she gave birth to twins who appeared to be half human and half bear.
Her husband took great pride in teaching his sons all the Bear songs and the Bear dance. He taught them about the healing medicines found in the forest. He taught them about the stars and the animals who lived nearby. He taught them everything he knew.
Then, one day while the girl and her two sons were out gathering berries for her husband and new family, she heard singing coming from a tall ridge. Intrigued by the sweet voices, she climbed up with her sons and discovered two brothers from her old village who came searching for their lost sister.
Just as she was about to reveal herself, her husband came lumbering up the ridge to meet the two brothers, face to face. The Chief's son knew his wife and sons must be protected against the humans, so he rose up to stand bearing his teeth and claws in hopes of frightening the two brothers. The brothers moved quickly and attacked him with spears from two directions.
As her husband lay dying, he willed his bear robe to his two sons and gave instructions that whenever they hunted the bear they must always sing the Bear Song over the dead body of his kinsmen to ensure their continued hunting good fortune.
The brothers took their sister, her two sons and the bear robe back to their village. When they arrived the two sons removed their bear coats and joined with the other children of the village. Later in life, both sons became great hunters and they instructed their kinsmen in the ways of the bear and how to properly track and slay the bear. As they proudly pointed to the bear robe, they taught the people the ritual bear songs so they may always show great respect and give honor to the Bear people.
The tribe continued to have good fortune with their hunting.
Edited by Takatoka
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