Manataka American Indian Council
BADGER AND THE BEAR
As Told By: Zitkala-Sa - 1901
the edge of a forest there lived a large family of badgers.
In the ground their dwelling was made. Its
walls and roof were covered with rocks and straw.
father badger was a great hunter.
He knew well how to
track the deer and buffalo.
Every day he came home carrying on his back some wild game.
This kept mother badger
very busy, and the baby badgers very chubby.
While the well fed children played about, digging little
make-believe dwellings, their mother hung thin sliced meats upon long willow
fast as the meats were dried and seasoned by sun and wind, she packed them
carefully away in a large thick bag.
bag was like a huge stiff envelope, but far more beautiful to see, for it was
painted all over with many bright colors.
These firmly tied bags
of dried meat were laid upon the rocks in the walls of the dwelling.
In this way they were
both useful and decorative.
day father badger did not go off for a hunt.
He stayed at home,
arrows. His children sat about him on the ground floor.
Their small black eyes
danced with delight as they watched the gay colors painted upon the arrows.
of a sudden there was heard a heavy footfall near the entrance way.
The oval- shaped door-frame was pushed aside. In stepped a
large black foot with great big claws.
Then the other clumsy foot came next. All the while the baby
badgers stared hard at the unexpected comer.
After the second foot, in peeped the head of a big black
black nose was dry and parched.
Silently he entered the dwelling and sat down on the ground
by the doorway.
black eyes never left the painted bags on the rocky walls.
He guessed what was in them.
He was a very hungry bear.
Seeing the racks of red
meat hanging in the yard,
he had come to visit the
he was a stranger and his strong paws and jaws frightened the small badgers, the
father said, "How, how, friend!
Your lips and nose look
feverish and hungry. Will you eat with us?"
my friend," said the bear. "I am starved.
I saw your racks of red fresh meat, and knowing your heart is
kind, I came hither. Give me meat to eat, my friend."
the mother badger took long strides across the room, and as she had to pass
in front of the strange visitor, she
said: "Ah han! Allow me to pass!" which was an apology.
how!" replied the bear, drawing himself closer to the wall and crossing his
badger chose the most tender red meat, and soon over a bed of coals she broiled
day the bear had all he could eat. At nightfall he rose, and smacking his lips
together, -- that is the noisy way of saying "the food was very
good!" -- he left the badger dwelling.
The baby badgers, peeping through the door-flap after the
shaggy bear, saw him disappear into the woods near by.
after day the crackling of twigs in the forest told of heavy footsteps. Out
would come the same black bear.
He never lifted the
door-flap, but thrusting it aside entered slowly in.
Always in the same place by the entrance way he sat down with
daily visits were so regular that mother badger placed a fur rug in his place.
She did not wish a guest
in her dwelling to sit upon the bare hard ground. Over a bed of coals she
broiled the venison.
last one time when the bear returned, his nose was bright and black. His coat was glossy.
He had grown fat upon
the badger's hospitality.
he entered the dwelling a pair of wicked gleams shot out of his shaggy head.
Surprised by the strange behavior of the guest who remained
standing upon the rug, leaning his round back against the wall, father badger
queried: "How, my friend!
bear took one stride forward and shook his paw in the badger's face. He said:
"I am strong, very strong!"
yes, so you are," replied the badger.
From the farther end of the room mother badger muttered over
her bead work: "Yes, you grew strong from our well-filled bowls."
The bear smiled, showing
a row of large sharp teeth.
have no dwelling. I have no bags of dried meat. I have no arrows.
All these I have found here on this spot," said he,
stamping his heavy foot. "I want them! See! I am strong!" repeated he,
lifting both his terrible paws.
the father badger spoke: "I fed you. I called you friend, though you came here a
stranger and a beggar. For the sake of my little ones leave us in
badger, in her excited way, had pierced hard through the buckskin and stuck her
fingers repeatedly with her sharp awl until she had laid aside her
while her husband was talking to the bear, she motioned with her
hands to the children.
On tiptoe they hastened
to her side.
reply came a low growl. It grew louder and more fierce.
"Wa-ough!" he roared, and by force hurled the
badgers out. First
the father badger; then the mother.
The little badgers he tossed by pairs.
He threw them hard upon
the ground. Standing
in the entrance way and showing his ugly teeth, he snarled, "Be gone!"
father and mother badger, having gained their feet, picked up their kicking
little babes, and, wailing aloud, drew the air into their flattened
lungs till they could stand alone upon their feet.
was shelter for the night; but alas! it was empty of food and arrows.
All day father badger prowled through the forest, but without his arrows he could not get food for his children.
Upon his return, the cry
of the little ones for meat, the sad quiet of the mother with bowed
head, hurt him like a poisoned arrow wound.
beg meat for you!" said he in an unsteady voice.
Covering his head and entire body in a long loose robe he halted beside the big black bear.
The bear was slicing red meat to hang upon the rack. He
did not pause for a look at the comer.
As the badger stood there unrecognized, he saw that the bear
had brought with him his whole family.
Little cubs played under the high-hanging new meats. They
laughed and pointed with their wee noses upward at the thin sliced meats upon
you no heart, Black Bear? My children are starving.
Give me a small piece of meat for them," begged the
growled the angry bear, and pounced upon the badger. "Be gone!"
said he, and with his big hind foot he sent father badger sprawling on the
All the little ruffian bears hooted and shouted "ha-ha!" to see the beggar fall upon his face. There was one, however, who did not even smile. He was the youngest cub. His fur coat was not as black and glossy as those his elders wore. The hair was dry and dingy. It looked much more like kinky wool. He was the ugly cub. Poor little baby bear! he had always been laughed at by his older brothers.
could not help being himself.
He could not change the
differences between himself and his brothers.
Thus again, though the
rest laughed aloud at the badger's fall,
he did not see the joke. His
face was long and earnest. In his heart he was sad to see the badgers crying and
starving. In his breast spread a burning desire to share his food with them.
shall not ask my father for meat to give away. He would say 'No!'
Then my brothers would laugh at me," said the ugly baby
bear to himself.
an instant, as if his good intention had passed from him, he was singing happily
and skipping around his father at work.
Singing in his small
high voice and dragging his feet in long strides after him, as if a prankish
spirit oozed out from his heels, he strayed
off through the tall grass. He was ambling toward the small round hut. When
directly in front of the entrance way, he made
a quick side kick with his left hind leg. Lo! there fell into the badger's hut a
piece of fresh meat. It was tough meat, full of
sinews, yet it was the only piece he could take without his
having given meat to the hungry badgers, the ugly baby bear ran quickly away to his father
the following day the father badger came back once more. He stood watching the
big bear cutting thin slices of meat.
" Give -- " he began, when the bear turning upon him with a growl, thrust him cruelly aside.
The badger fell on his hands. He fell where the grass was wet with the
blood of the newly carved buffalo. His
keen starving eyes caught sight of a little red clot lying bright upon the
fearfully toward the bear and seeing his head was turned away, he snatched up
the small thick blood. Underneath
his girdled blanket he hid it in his hand.
his return to his family, he said within himself : "I'll pray the
Great Spirit to bless it."
Thus he built a small
round lodge. Sprinkling water upon the heated heap of sacred stones
within, he made ready to purge his body.
"The buffalo blood,
too, must be purified before I ask a blessing upon it," thought the badger.
He carried it into the
sacred vapor lodge.
After placing it near
the sacred stones, he sat down beside it. After a long
silence, he muttered: "Great Spirit, bless this little buffalo blood."
Then he arose, and with
a quiet dignity stepped out of the lodge. Close behind him some one followed.
The badger turned to look over his shoulder and to his great
joy he beheld a Dakota brave in handsome buckskins.
closely the young man stood looking steadily upon the ground.
At length the father badger moved away.
queried the avenger.
"My son, we have no
am going again to beg for meat," answered the badger.
I go with you," replied the young brave. This made the old badger
happy. He was proud of his son.
He was delighted to be called "father" by the first
human creature. The bear saw the badger coming in the distance.
He narrowed his eyes at the tall stranger walking beside him.
He spied the arrow.
badger, my friend! Here is my knife. Cut
your favorite pieces from the deer," said he, holding out a long thin
said the badger eagerly. He wondered what had inspired the big bear to such a
generous deed. The
young avenger waited till the badger took the long knife in his hand.
full into the black bear's face, he said: "I come to do justice. You have
returned only a knife to my poor father. Now
return to him his dwelling." His voice was deep and powerful.
In his black eyes burned a steady fire.
long strong teeth of the bear rattled against each other, and his shaggy body
shook with fear. "Ahow!" cried he, as if he had been shot. Running into the
dwelling he gasped, breathless and trembling, "Come
out, all of you!
This is the badger's
must flee to the forest for fear of the avenger who carries the magic
Out they hurried, all the bears, and disappeared into the woods. Singing and laughing, the badgers returned to their own dwelling. Then the avenger left them. "I go," said he in parting, "over the earth."
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