Marriage: The Bear-Woman (cont.)

In the conclusion of this story, you will find out how the constellation of "The Bear" came to be, and it was also called "bear" — Ursa major — by the Greek astronomers: Ursa Major. Here is a photo showing the constellation:

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Native American Marriage Tales unit. Story source: Tales of the North American Indians by Stith Thompson (1929).

The Bear-Woman (cont.)

When the little sister came back to the lodge, the elder sister said, "Where have you been all this time?"

"Oh, my little brother mussed himself and I had to clean him," replied the little sister.

"Where did you get that rabbit?" she asked.

"I killed it with a sharp stick," said the little sister.

"That is a lie. Let me see you do it," said the older sister. Then the little sister took up a stick lying near her, threw it at the rabbit, and it stuck in the wound in his body.

"Well, all right," said the elder sister.

Then the little sister dressed the rabbit and cooked it. She offered some of it to her older sister, but it was refused: so the little sister and her brother ate all of it.

When the elder sister saw that the rabbit had all been eaten, she became very angry, and said, "Now I have a mind to kill you."

So the little sister arose quickly, took her little brother on her back, and said, "I am going out to look for wood." As she went out, she followed the narrow trail through the prickly-pears and met her six brothers in the brush. Then they decided to leave the country, and started off as fast as they could go.

The older sister, being a powerful medicine-woman, knew at once what they were doing. She became very angry and turned herself into a bear to pursue them.

Soon she was about to overtake them, when one of the boys tried his power. He took a little water in the hollow of his hand and sprinkled it around. At once it became a great lake between them and the bear. Then the children hurried on while the bear went around.

After a while the bear caught up with them again, when another brother threw a porcupine-tail (a hairbrush) on the ground. This became a great thicket, but the bear forced its way through and again overtook the children.

This time they all climbed a high tree. The bear came to the foot of the tree and, looking up at them, said, "Now I shall kill you all." So she took a stick from the ground, threw it into the tree and knocked down four of the brothers.

While she was doing this, a little bird flew around the tree, calling out to the children, "Shoot her in the head! Shoot her in the head!"

Then one of the boys shot an arrow into the head of the bear, and at once she fell dead. Then they came down from the tree.

Now the four brothers were dead. The little brother took an arrow, shot it straight up into the air, and when it fell one of the dead brothers came to life. This he repeated until all were alive again.

Then they held a council and said to each other, "Where shall we go? Our people have all been killed, and we are a long way from home. We have no relatives living in the world." Finally they decided that they preferred to live in the sky.

Then the little brother said, "Shut your eyes." As they did so, they all went up. Now you can see them every night.

The little brother is the North Star. The six brothers and the little sister are seen in the Great Dipper. The little sister and eldest brother are in a line with the North Star, the little sister being nearest it because she used to carry her little brother on her back. The other brothers are arranged in order of their age, beginning with the eldest. This is how the seven stars came to be.

(600 words)

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