Native American Legends
Bear Clan origin myth
A Winnebago (Hotcâk) Legend
There exist several versions of the Bear Clan Origin Myth:
The spirits met at a long lodge in the East to discuss populating
the Earth. Earthmaker wished to put a particular Bear on Earth,
but it was already headed that way on its own initiative. When the
Bear appeared, the winds stopped and the day stood still. As the
Bear walked towards the Creation Council, a great nimbus of lightning
formed over his head. Before the lodge of the council stood a sapling.
Unexpectedly, a storm suddenly struck out of nowhere, and a great
lightning bolt consumed the tree. There stood the Bear, and beside
him materialized the Spirit of War (Wonághire Uánkcik?).
They greeted each other as friends. This is why Bear clansmen have
two sides to their bodies: one is the repository of war powers and
the other is the dwelling place of the powers of chieftainship.
The Bear clansmen from the beginning walked on two legs, but initially
they were completely covered with fur. In time, as they traversed
the Earth, they lost their fur. Those with whom they traveled would
kill and eat a Bear from time to time, but the Bear people would
always abstain. However, one day a Bear clansman joined in the feast.
When this was reported to the Bear Chief, he declared for all time
that because "we have eaten ourselves," the Bear Clan
shall henceforth participate with the other clans in feasts.
There were four spirit Bears the youngest of whom came walking
across the ocean. When he got near the shore he suddenly turned
into a raven and flew onto the littoral. Because he became a raven,
the Bear Clan now has the name Kakijigaga, (kaghi - "raven").
Some say that it was in the form of foam that he came to shore and
that is why the Bear clansmen have so much life. Then he changed
back, and because he changed twice he is one of the greatest of
the Bear people. When he walked on the shore at Red Banks he first
saw a Wolf clansman and they went together to a lodge each of whose
four doors opened onto one of the cardinal points. When they entered
the lodge they sat opposite one another. This is why they are friends
and call each other, "my opposite."
Ten brothers left their parents and walked across the ocean, headed
for the great clan meeting at Red Banks. As they approached the
shore, four waves were formed and out of each wave a raven (kaghi)
flew up. When the ravens landed on the shore, suddenly they each
became a Bear. Those four, because they had changed themselves twice,
were the most powerful. As they walked along they saw the tracks
of the Wolf clansmen, so they said, "Our friends have gone
by." When they went into the assembly lodge, they sat opposite
the Wolf people. This is why the Wolf and Bear Clans bury each other.
Bear people should paint their faces with red and black pigments.
The charcoal should be from the basswood tree. They should paint
the women with red on their cheeks and place a black mark in the
center of each cheek.
In the beginning there were no humans since Earthmaker had created
only animals. In a great council held with all the animals, Earthmaker
announced that some of them would be chosen to become human. It
was decided that one animal of each of twelve kinds was to be chosen
along with his wife. When it came time to name the Soldier, he picked
the youngest of the Bears. This Bear's oldest brother has black
hair, the second oldest is dark red, and the third of the brothers
has blue (tco) hair. Each was a chief in his spirit village. Then,
on the appointed day, the youngest Bear and his wife emerged out
of the Earth to the North of Green Bay. It was a perfect day. As
they went to the place of rendezvous, they heard them say in the
distance, "Here come the Soldiers!" With each step they
made footprints of luminescent blue like Daylight itself. Thus they
have a name, Hâbamanina, "He Who Walks with the Day."
As they walked, those who followed him became hungry, so he told
them that they could hunt. Now he sent those hunters ahead so that
they might have just the right food waiting for them when they camped.
That night they made offerings of this food along with red feathers
and tobacco for the three brothers that he left behind. He did this
because they asked to be remembered of him. When they started again
the next day they saw tracks on the ground, and said, "Our
friends must have come by." When their friends saw the tracks
of the Soldiers, they said the same thing. The Soldiers arrived
at last at a great lodge where they met the other chosen animals.
They wished to start a fire, but none of them save the Thunder Clan
could make one, so that clan was made chief. They called upon the
Waterspirits to be chief of the lower division; of the third division,
the Soldiers were to be chiefs. They were in charge of discipline.
This is the origin of the Bear Clan, who are Soldiers.
After he created all other things, Earthmaker created a man and
woman in the South, and he appointed them to be in charge of part
of the Day (that is, Life). To the man, he gave charge of all the
creatures upon the Earth and in the sky. This man came North from
below, and as he came forth a great host of creatures followed after
him. The other clans had already gathered at the place of rendezvous,
and when they saw them come, they said, "Make room! Our Soldiers
have arrived." Then the Soldier spoke to them and said, "What
Earthmaker created me for, I am here to do. I will protect and make
sacred all the cleared land upon which your village stands; and
if you call upon your Soldiers to combat sickness, you shall be
made well." For four days the weather was good and no wind
blew from any direction. In such wise was the Soldier in charge
of things and circling above him were birds of prey sharp in their
talons. After four days the clans left for their homes. To this
day the Bear is still in command of the people.
There was a hill in the South near a spring of white water. The
hill and the waters shook mightily and he who lived in the hill
came forth preceded by his attendants. There were eleven men there,
and they told him to look about the fields and meadows. So he sent
four of his attendants and there they found ripened fruit in abundance,
even nuts and beans. However, they returned and excitedly reported
to the leader, "Unexpectedly, we came across the footprints
of human beings." So the leader told them to make a wider circuit
in their explorations and when they did so, they soon found those
they sought. It had been the Wolves who made the footprints, and
being thus discovered, they said, "It is our friends who have
come upon us." The Bears replied, "Friends, let us never
disobey one another's words," and for their part the Wolves
declared, "It shall always be thus." And they pledged
to one another that when anyone among them should die, his opposite
would put him in the Earth so that his soul would not be set upon
by evil spirit insects. Thus the Bears and Wolves are friends, and
even avenge the murder of one another's clansmen. After shaking
hands, the Wolves departed to their home, and the Bears returned
South. When the Bears came back to this Earth again, they spread
out all over the land seeking every kind of ripe fruit. Thus they
do to this day.
Hotcâk-English Interlinear Text
Earthmaker he made it (the cosmos). Thus it was taught that Earthmaker
did in this way, and so the story began. The story has reached us.
Also in this way he made us, and so the story began. "We are
to get ready to counsel together." It was the one on the side
where it grows cold (the North) who said it. He was one whom the
Creator also created in the way he created us. There were four brothers,
the eldest was named "Black"; the second, "Red,"
as he was a red one; the third was a blue/green (tco) one; the fourth,
who was the youngest and last, was a white one.
"Our younger brother, how will it be?" This one (said),
"I myself say that I am not equal to the task, thus do I believe.
My temperament does not approach being equal to the task. Try to
say something, as they are about to have a gathering. Try to say
something." And, "O elder brother, you have spoken truly,
and I too am thus. There I am not equal to the task of finishing
this, my dear elder brother, I am not fit." "Alright,
our dear elder brother, you have told us to finish this, but for
this sort of thing I am not equal to the task; only our younger
brother, he alone is clever, our dear elder brother, I believe that
it is only our younger brother who is the one." "Alright,
our younger brother, he will be the one. Truly have you spoken,
our younger brother alone is fit for the task. The announcement
of the coming gathering has already been made. We shall council
over it right away, in our younger brother we will find refuge,
only our younger brother, he alone will be strong in his mind."
"Truly you have spoken. He will go on to the Earth, but we
will be obliged to remain here and take care of our home. The younger
brother, when he speaks, that way is how it will be. Thus it will
be. Earthmaker ordained that they should gather together and the
lives that we have shall be lived there. Our younger brother will
do it. Younger brother, you will be going, so we will ask you to
remember us. When you arrive on Earth, you will be going along and
if you obtain one of the little offerings, send some back to us.
When you start out going, you will go in the guise of Light-and-Life
(Hâpdjâre). Now it is his [to do]. You have companions.
You have those who travel. You will do it. You will take care to
name everyone who is now with you. And when you start going out,
after you have arrived at the gathering place, you will name the
dog names. Now you will go forth in holiness (wákâtcâk)."
And he was the last to start.
"This one, the first one, his name this will be it: the name
for the oldest, the first, if he is a man, a male, they will call
him by the name, 'Very Black', they will address him. And they will
call the second one 'Yellowish Red.' The name of the fourth oldest
they shall call 'White Bear.' When there is a girl, they call her
by the name, 'She who Walks in Darkness.' And the next one they
call 'Daylight as She Walks.' And the next one they call 'She who
Thrusts Herself within a Lodge.' And the next one they call 'Visible
Footprint Woman,' they call her. And again, in owning a dog, if
they wish to keep him, they call him 'Bringer of Fresh Meat.' Yet
again, one they style 'Two Bears,' they call him, if they keep him.
And again when doing it for a female dog, they style her 'Haksiga
(Third Born Female),' they call her. Yet again, a bitch, once they
decide to keep it, they style it 'Yellowish Red Female,' they call
it, and in this way they will do it," he said.
They started to go to the gathering place. They began to talk.
They [at the gathering place] heard them: "Our soldiers are
coming. Their speech is audible." In time one landed with a
leap. "Our friends have arrived," they said. And they
arrived. They arrived at the gathering place. When he got there,
they arrived. The Waterspirit Clan had arrived first; the Bird Clan
had arrived; the Bear Clan had arrived; the whole group of relatives
gathered together, and they made a lodge. They made a great lodge.
They finished the lodge and they said -- to those who were first
to arrive, the Waterspirit Clan -- they were addressed, "Chief
among our kin, how will we proceed? Try to light a fire!" "Hoho,
hoho, hagagasgejâ, I cannot do it. I am unable. One among
us will do it." They were told that he could not do it. They
said, "The one who could start the fire, that one would become
chief." Thus they said. They tried to do it. The Thunderbird
Clan of the Bird Clan, they could do it. They said that they could
start the fire, and so they are the chief. They became glad and
the relatives distributed the fire around. And everyone placed the
fire it is said. Thus it was at the Creation Council. Everything
they were to create, they got done. They were to (ritually) serve
the village. The Thunderbird Clan, it was put in charge of the village.
They made for him a lodge, they put him in charge, and they obeyed
whatever he would say. They said of him, "By this means we
got here," they would say to him, and thus they would obey
their chief and [this is why] they said it.
When they were to eat, whatever food they brought back, they would
look for it themselves. They say that they began to take the food
back with them, and the Bear Clan made a rule for themselves: it
would make for itself a feast as an offering. For him they give
just one kettle, it is a shallow kettle, they say.
It is told that at a large spring there suddenly appeared a Bear
whose body was sky-blue and so bright that it seemed like part of
the sky itself. This was Blue Bear, and Earthmaker brought him there
for a special purpose. Standing to the side of Blue Bear were twelve
men. Then, unexpectedly, four times the Earth shook, and each time
a great spirit being came up from the Earth. When the third of these
emerged, the Earth erupted in fruit of every kind and in plenty
it was spread over the Earth. And Earthmaker told Blue Bear that
he, and all who were with him, were to go to a gathering at Red
Banks. As they tread the Earth, it shook, and the leaves with spiny
edges changed to men, and so too the thorns and briars, the serpents
with sharp fangs, and the birds of prey with the sharp talons --
all these became men under the charge of Blue Bear. When they arrived,
they found that a place had already been prepared for them, but
they did not tarry there long. Blue Bear announced that Earthmaker
had made these men to be spiritual guardians to ward off evil from
the Hotcâgara, for they were all soldiers among the living
things of this world. When this was made known, everyone dispersed
to their homes, but those who remained behind as men became the
Hotcâk Soldier (Bear) Clan.
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