Haida Tale: Mother Bear Story

The Haida are a Native American people of the west coast of Canada and the northern United States, as well as a southeastern part of Alaska, along the Pacific coast, and in the Haida Gwaii archipelago in particular. Here is their tale: Mother Bear Story.

Mother Bear Story

Haida Mother Bear 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 girl's foot slipped
in some bear dung and her forehead strap, which held the pack filled
with berries to her back, broke. She lets out an angry laugh. Tea
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 aristocratic young lady followed
the, 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 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 dress
was already longer and more like a bear's. 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 cam 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 woman's 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 his father, who was a tribal
leader. 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 coats again and went back to live with the Bear People,
but the tribe continued to have good fortune with their hunting.