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Native American Legends

The Mother Bear's Song

A Cherokee Legend

A hunter in the woods one day heard singing in a cave. He came near and peeped in, and it was a mother bear singing to her cubs and telling them what to do when the hunters came after them.

Said the mother bear to the cubs, "When you hear the hunters coming down the creek, then-

Tsâ'gï, tsâ'gï, hwï'lahï'; (Upstream, upstream, you must go)

Tsâ'gï, tsâ'gï, hwï'lahï. (Upstream, upstream, you must go)

But if you hear them coming up the creek, children, then--

Ge'i, ge'i, hwï'lahï'; (Downstream, downstream, you must go)

Ge'i, ge'i, hwï'lahï'" (Downstream, downstream, you must go)

Another hunter out in the woods one day thought he heard a woman singing to a baby. He followed the sound up to the head of the branch until he came to a cave under the bushes, and inside was a mother bear rocking her cub in her paws and singing to it this baby song, which the Ani'-Tsâ'gûhï used to know before they were turned into bears:

Ha'-mama', ha'-mama', ha'-mama', ha'-mama'; (Let me carry you on my back, repeated four times)

Udâ'hale'yï hi'lûñnû, hi'lûñnû; (On the sunny side go to sleep, go to sleep)

Udâ'hale'yï hi'lûñnû, hi'lûñnû. (On the sunny side go to sleep, go to sleep)

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