Native American Legends
The White Trail in the Sky
A Shoshone Legend
No one can remember any more exactly how it came about that the
black bear Wakini overpowered the strong gray grizzly Wakinu. The
black bears say that Wakini was just feeding on the contents of
an ant hill when Wakinu came up to him and quite rudely stuck his
paw in as well.
A great fight ensued, with gray and black hairs flying on every
side. Wakini was, of course, in the right, for no animal may ever
touch another's prey.
Wakinu thus received a just punishment; but that was by no means
all - like a defeated warrior, he had to leave his tribe forever.
Wakinu wailed and lamented, but the Indian laws are inexorable.
And so he had to go, wading through familiar streams, taking a last
look at the familiar pines, and saying farewell to the valley he
had lived in all of his life.
He could not see for tears, and so he failed to notice that he
was making straight for the Snow Country. Suddenly he fell into
a deep snowdrift. Clambering out with difficulty, he wiped his eyes
and took a look round.
There was nothing but white, unblemished snow everywhere.
"I'm sure to find a trail soon," the bear said to himself,
and set out on his way once more. His gray coat had turned completely
white with the snow, ice, and bitter wind.
But Wakinu took no notice of anything and walked on and on, until
he reached a strange land in which a deep, frosty night reigned
supreme. Somewhere in the far distance the gale could still be heard,
yet here there was no but that made by his own footfalls on the
Above him glowed the night sky, while not far away, on the very
fringe of the Snow Country and the heavens, a broad white trail
could be seen ascending the sky.
Wakinu ran, hardly touching the ground, mesmerized by that gleaming
trail. Another leap, and he found himself in the air, shaking the
snow from his coat; light as a feather, he soared up and up.
The animals who were awake that night saw, for the first time,
a wide white trail in the sky, and on it - a gray bear.
"Wakinu has found the Bridge of the Dead Souls and is on his
way to the Eternal Hunting-grounds," said the wise black bear
And the grizzly really did go to the Eternal Hunting-grounds. The
only thing he left behind was the snow he had shaken from his coat.
And that white snow is there in the sky to this day. Just look and
The pale-faces speak about the Milky Way, but every Indian knows
that is the way to the Eternal Hunting-grounds, the path taken by
the gray grizzly Wakinu.
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends