Native American Legends
Musquakie - Chasing the Bear
An American Indian Legend - Nation Unknown
They say that once, a long time ago, it was early winter. It had
snowed the night before, and the first snow still lay fresh on the
ground. Three young men went out to hunt at first light. One of
them took his little dog, Hold Tight, with him.
They went along the river and up into the woods, where they came
to a place on the side of a hill where the shrubs and bushes grew
low and thick. Here, winding among the bushes, the hunters found
a trail, and they followed it. The path led them to a cave in the
hillside. They had found a bear's den.
"Which of us shall go in an drive the bear out?" the
hunters asked one another.
At last the oldest said, "I will go," and he crawled
into the bear's den. With his bow he poked the bear to try to drive
him out. "He's coming! He's coming!" the man in the cave
called to his companions.
The bear broke away from his tormentor and lumbered out of the
cave. The hunters followed him.
"Look!" the youngest of the hunters cried, "See
how fast he's going! He's heading for the north, the place from
whence comes the cold; that's where he's going!" And the hunter
ran to the north hoping to turn the bear and drive him back towards
"Look out!" shouted the middle hunter, "here he
comes! He's going to the east, to the place where midday comes from!"
And he ran towards the east, to try to turn the bear and drive him
back towards the others.
"I see him!" cried the oldest hunger, "He's going
to the west, to the place where the sun falls down. Hurry, brothers,
that's the way he's going!" And he and his little dog ran as
fast as they could the west, to try to turn the bear back.
As they hunters ran after the bear, the oldest one looked down.
"Oh," he shouted, "there is Grandmother Earth below
us. This bear is leading us into the sky! Brothers, let us turn
back before it is too late!"
But it was already too late; the sky bear had led them too high.
At last the hunters caught up with the bear and killed him. The
men piled up maple and sumac branches, and on the pile of boughs
they butchered the bear. That is why those trees turn blood-red
in the fall.
Then the hunters stood up. All together they lifted the bear's
head and threw it away towards the east. Now, early on winter's
mornings a group of stars in the shape of the bear's head can be
seen low on the horizon in the east, just before daybreak.
Next the hunters threw the bear's backbone away to the north, and
if you look north at midnight in the middle of winter you will see
the bear's backbone there, outlined in stars.
At any time of the year, if you look at the sky, you can see four
bright stars in a square, and behind them three big bright stars
and one tiny dim one. The square of stars is the bear; the three
running behind him are the hunters, and the little tiny one that
you can hardly see is the little dog, Hold Tight.
Those eight stars move around and around the sky together all year
long. They never go in to rest like some of the other stars. Until
the hunters catch up with the bear, they and the little dog will
That is the end of that story.
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