Go to: Indigenous Peoples' Literature Index





Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Mt. Shasta Grizzly Legend

by Joaquin Miller


Before people were on the Earth, the Chief of the Great Sky Spirits grew tired of his home in the Above World because it was always cold. So he made a hole in the sky by turning a stone around and around. Through the hole he pushed snow and ice until he made a big mound. This mound was Mount Shasta.

Then Sky Spirit stepped from the sky to the mountain and walked down. When he got about halfway down, he thought: "On this mountain there should be trees." So he put his finger down and eveywhere he touched, up sprang trees. Everywhere he stepped, the snow melted and became rivers.

The Sky Spirit broke off the end of his big walking stick he had carried from the sky and threw the pieces in the water. The long pieces became Beaver and Otter. The smaller pieces became fish. From the other end of his stick he made the animals.

Biggest of all was Grizzly Bear. They were covered with fur and had sharp claws just like today, but they could walk on their hind feet and talk. They were so fierce looking that the Sky Spirit sent them to live at the bottom of the mountain.

When the leaves fell from the trees, Sky Spirit blew on them and made the birds.

Then Sky Spirit decided to stay on the Earth and sent for his family. Mount Shasta became their lodge. He made a BIG fire in the middle of the mountain and a hole in the top for the smoke and sparks. Every time he threw a really big log on the fire, the Earth would tremble and sparks would fly from the top of the mountain.

Late one spring, Wind Spirit was blowing so hard that it blew the smoke back down the hole and burned the eyes of Sky Spirit's family. Sky Spirit told his youngest daughter to go tell Wind Spirit not to blow so hard.

Sky Spirit warned his daughter: "When you get to the top, don't poke your head out. The wind might catch your hair and pull you out. Just put your arm through and make a sign and then speak to Wind Spirit."

The little girl hurried to the top of the mountain and spoke to Wind Spirit. As she started back down, she remembered that her father had told her that the ocean could be seen from the top of the mountain. He had made the ocean since moving his family to the mountain and his daughter had never seen it.

She put her head out of the hole and looked to the west. The Wind Spirit caught her hair and pulled her out of the mountain. She flew over the ice and snow and landed in the scrubby fir trees at the timberline, her long red hair flowing over the snow.

There Grizzly Bear found her. He carried the little girl home with him wondering who she was. Mother Grizzly Bear took care of her and brought her up with her cubs. The little girl and the cubs grew up together.

When she bacame a young woman, she and the eldest son of Gizzly Bear were married. In the years that followed they had many children. The children didn't look like their father or their mother.

All the grizzly bears throughout the forest were proud of these new creatures. They were so pleased, they made a new lodge for the red-haired mother and her strange looking children. They called the Lodge - Little Mount Shasta.

Ater many years had passed, Mother Grizzly Bear knew that she would soon die. Fearing that she had done wrong in keeping the little girl, she felt she should send word to the Chief of the Sky Spirits and ask his forgiveness. So she gathered all the grizzlies at Little Mount Shasta and sent her oldest grandson to the top of Mount Shasta, in a cloud, to tell the Spirit Chief where he could find his daughter.

The father was very glad. He came down the mountain in great strides. He hurried so fast the snow melted. His tracks can be seen to this day.

As he neared the lodge, he called out for his daughter.

He expected to see a little girl exactly as he saw her last. When he saw the strange creatures his daughter was taking care of, he was surprised to learn that they were his grandchildren and he was very angry. He looked so sternly at the old grandmother that she died at once. Then he cursed all the grizzlies.

"Get down on your hands and knees. From this moment on all grizzlies shall walk on four feet. And you shall never talk again. You have wronged me."

He drove his grandchildren out of the lodge, threw his daughter over his shoulder and climbed back up the mountain. Never again did he come to the forest. Some say he put out the fire in the center of his lodge and returned to the sky with his daughter.

Those strange grandchildren scattered and wandered over the earth. They were the first Indians, the ancestors of all the Indian Tribes.

That is why the Indians living around Mount Shasta never kill Grizzly Bear. Whenever one of them was killed by a grizzly bear, his body was burned on the spot. And for many years all who passed that way cast a stone there until a great pile of stones marked the place of his death.




Begin Your journey, learn the Steps to
Your Indian Ancestry
Beginners Lesson in Genealogy




American Indian Heritage Foundation
Indians.org Home | Indigenous Peoples' Literature Index Page

The Tribal Directory



The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.


Birth, Marriage & Death Collection