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The Legend of the White Bear


This legend gives an explanation of the reason for the extreme ferocity of the White Bear, and explains why his usual habitat is more hostile than others of his own species.

Once upon a time there was a White Bear whose nephew, Black Bear, lived with him along with several other animals, including Fox. Because Fox was always up to mischief, the White Bear took away Fox's right shoulder. Consequently Fox became ill. White Bear tied Fox's right shoulder to a bunch of claws that he always carried with him.

Now Fox became very sick and unable to get along very well without his right shoulder. He sent for Crow, who seemed always full of cunning, to devise some scheme to get back Fox's right shoulder. After a long talk, Crow left to visit White Bear, who was old and infirm and troubled with rheumatism. He found White Bear sitting by his fire warming himself, and saw the bunch of claws and Fox's shoulder hanging from the cave top. Crow began to talk with White Bear who nodded now and then. Crow touched the bag of claws, explaining he was only curious to see what they were made of.

At last, White Bear took no notice of what Crow was doing, as he was half-asleep. Crow saw his chance, and pulled down Fox's shoulder and ran out of the camp. White Bear waked and asked his nephew Black Bear, "What has happened?" Black Bear stuttered and took so long to tell White Bear that Crow had run away with Fox's right shoulder that White Bear became ferociously angry with Black Bear.

He told Black Bear to go away and find himself a new home and never come back again. White Bear in his rage took down the Sun and put it alongside of the claws. Outside, everything was in darkness. Animals could not hunt and were starving. So they appealed to Crow to get them out of their present trouble, caused by White Bear.

In the meantime, White Bear's daughter went for water. She took a drink and saw something black; but it was too late. She had swallowed the black speck. Sometime later a child was born to her, and the infant grew so fast he could walk about. When he noticed the bright Sun hanging beside the bunch of claws, the child began to cry for it.

After much frustration and begging, White Bear gave the Sun to the child to play with inside their cave. Soon he wished to play outside with the Sun, but at first White Bear would not allow it. Because the child continually begged, White Bear relented and said yes, but only close to their home. If the child saw anyone coming, he was to run inside at once and bring the Sun with him.

All of these commandments the child promised to do as White Bear directed. But as soon as the boy ran outside, he threw the Sun up into the sky, for the child was the scheming Crow in yet another disguise. When White Bear discovered how he was cheated again by Crow, he was doubly furious, driving away everyone.

Ever since then, White Bears always have been more ferocious and bad-tempered toward other species, as well as man.


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