There is a world somewhere between reality and fiction. Although ignored by many, it is very real and so are those living in it. This forum is about the natural world. Here, wild animals will be heard and respected. The forum offers a glimpse into an unknown world as well as a room with a view on the present and the future. Anyone able to speak on behalf of those living in the emerald forest and the deep blue sea is invited to join.
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Animal Legends and Lore

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In this thread, we can discuss various legends and lore about animals of any kind whether they'd be carnivores, herbivores, reptiles, amphibians, etc...

I'd like to get a little un-scientific for now.... Wink

Bears seem to be all that everyone talks about this time of year. Elsewhere (probably in this publication) you will have the opportunity to read general polar bear facts and about polar bear safety. In this article I would like to tell you a little bit about the relationship that the Inuit have traditionally had with polar bears.


First of all, it is important to understand this belief of the Inuit: “The greatest peril of life lies in the fact that human food consists entirely of souls. All the creatures that we have to kill and eat, all those that we have to strike down and destroy to make clothes for ourselves, have souls, like we have, souls that do not perish with the body, and which must therefore be propitiated lest they should avenge themselves on us for taking away their bodies.” (Quoted by Knud Rasmussen.)

The Inuit also believed that Nuliajuk (also known by a variety of other names, including Sedna), the mother of the animals and mistress of the land and sea, who ruled through ordinary and evil spirits, made the animals either visible and easy to hunt, so that people have enough food and clothing and warmth, or she made them disappear so that humans would be hungry and cold. Because of these beliefs, the Inuit had a complicated set of hunting taboos that they needed to observe to be respectful of the animals that, by necessity, they needed to hunt, in order to not offend Nuliajuk, and to ensure that future hunting would be successful. Various gestures of respect and kindness to the souls of animals were considered to be encouragements to the animal to reincarnate into another body and, out of gratitude, allow itself to be killed again by the same hunter.

The polar bear spirit was considered to be the most powerful, dangerous, and potentially revengeful spirit after that of Nuliajuk. The Inuit believed in tornaq, which is the spiritual guardian or helping spirit of a particular individual. The shaman often had the polar bear as his or her tornaq, and often carried a likeness of this animal from a belt or pendant.

The polar bear is the most powerful and dangerous of all the animals, so the killing of one was a major event. Traditionally the Inuit did not go out for the sole purpose of bear hunting. Bear hunts were usually accidental. If, while out seal hunting, fresh bear tracks are found, the hunter would set out with his dogs on the leash, armed only with his sealing harpoon. The chase was a strenuous one that could go on for days. When finally the hunter caught up with the bear, and the dogs had rounded it up, the fight was with the harpoon alone. (In the times before contact with the Europeans, the Inuit only had shorter harpoons of horn rather than longer harpoons of iron, or firearms.)

This was a hazardous fight, fought close to the bear, and often resulted in injuries, ranging from relatively innocuous scratches to wounds and broken bones that scarred the hunter for life.

The taboos surrounding the bear hunt were particularly detailed, and therefore particularly difficult to follow. The Inuit believed that when a bear had been killed, its soul remained at the point of the harpoon head for four days if it was a male bear, and five days if it was a female bear.

The soul of the bear was very dangerous during the days that it stayed in the weapon that killed it, and if it was offended, might become one of those evil spirits that persecutes people with illness or other distress. This time period was considered to be sufficient time for the bear’s soul to return to its family.

The hunter who has killed a bear and returns to his house must take off all of his outer clothing, including his outer mittens and kamiks, before entering the house. For a whole month, he must not eat of the meat or blubber of the bear. Since bears are always thirsty, it was thought to have a positive effect on their souls to give them drinking water once they have been brought into the house. (There is a prescribed way of doing this too.)

Other death rituals (observed for four or five days, depending on the sex of the animal) surrounding the polar bear include taking the skin, with the skull intact, and hanging it, hair side out, by the nostrils in the snow hut.

Inside, the skin, the bear’s bladder, spleen, tongue, and genitals are hung together with presents that are being made to the soul of the bear. For a male bear, various men’s implements such as knives, tools, harpoon heads, etc. must be hung up near the skin. If the bear was female, similar women’s implements (cooking utensils, an ulu, etc.) are hung up. The bear is given human tools because it was believed that bears could sometimes change themselves into humans. These gifts are similar to the possessions left with the dead because it was believed that like humans, male bears need their hunting weapons, and female bears need their domestic tools.

As long as the death taboo for the soul of the bear is being observed no man’s or woman’s work may be done, including gathering fuel or sewing new clothing (only the most necessary of repairs to clothing is allowed.) As soon as the taboo is over, children must throw the gifts to the bear’s soul on the floor and afterwards compete in picking them up again. The one who can collect the gifts most quickly will be a skilled bear hunter. There are other rituals that needed to be observed, too many to go into here.

Why such particular care about the soul of the polar bear? It was thought that the spirits of humans and polar bears were interchangeable. Why was this?
It could quite possibly be because bears have many “human” traits. They can stand up and walk on their hind legs. The Inuit have observed how the standing bear looks like a human (albeit a much taller, much heavier human!). It walks on the soles of its feet the way humans do (unlike most other animals), and leaves full footprints when it walks. It can use its forepaws like hands to carry food to its mouth. It can sit and lean against something as if it is resting and thinking.

The polar bear eats many of the same foods that humans do. The Inuit respect the bears’ hunting skills, and some stories state that their ancestors learned how to hunt seals by watching polar bears. They respect the bears’ strength, patience, inquisitiveness, speed, and the maternal devotion to their cubs. The Inuit also respect the intelligence of polar bears. Some Inuit believe that polar bears have an intelligence matching or exceeding that of humans.
The fact that may garner the most respect is that a skinned bear carcass has an eerie similarity to the human carcass. Many Inuit stories have polar bears that become humans by removing their fur coats, and then become bears again by putting their coats back on, or are human in their houses, but bears outside of them.

Or it may simply be that the Inuit are wary of the meat. Eating uncooked or undercooked bear meat could lead to trichinosis (just like undercooked pork), and the liver has such high concentrations of vitamin A (up to 15,000 to 30,000 units per gram – up to three times the recommended maximum daily allowance) that it is toxic.

~Polar Bear Legends
 
I'll post more tales of polar bear and inuit interaction later on.
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This seems to be the only account of an inuit, large polar bear, AND viking/Norse interaction all together in the Greenland coast!

The Quests of Nordig (pg.38), 1188 A.D:

"We once saw [a] large bear in Gronland, most blank in appearance. A few landers sought in the coast [with] their [sharp] spears and smooth skins. "Angiyok Issumadguyok," the natives [referred] to the bear. It's meaning is "one great bear," that's [what] it really looked like. The giant beast had a mixture of white fur and scat spots on the fur. It's mouth had only one meat-tooth in [the] front. We spotted the natives and the bear charging at them, and they [readied] their spears. Blood [was] everywhere and most of the natives could not comprehend the brute power of the greatest beast, the white bear. My [friend] Hendag had an encounter with one of these great beasts and he left the fight with a [broken] ryggrad after my men secured the village-born bear into its quarters.  Later, I talked to [chief] with my men and asked him about the bear. The [chief] described the bear as clever, old, and aggressive. All the natives avoided the bear for security and [danger], but the bear made great warning of his [hunger]. We had never [had an] encounter like this before, and before me and my men, all the natives were bloodied and as we say [massacred], and the great white bear feasted on one of them while sulking away [towards] a snow-layered hill, never to be seen again. There [were] no landers to deal with, but there was a trail of [blood] to [where] the bear had moved."

Looks like the bear described here was a grolar/pizzly combination? And surely it was an old one, indeed. Seems as though old carnivores target humans more than they do with less available, yet more nutritious and larger prey.
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( This post was last modified: 01-27-2016, 07:03 AM by Polar )

"Working as a scientist at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre while also interning at the Assiniboine Park Zoo has afforded me the opportunity to interact with and observe both wild and captive polar bears and gain valuable information about the bears and their behaviors.

Just as other wildlife biologists always try to improve their methods, our team is looking into new methods of studying bears. Field biology has been moving towards using non-invasive techniques to collect animal data, especially for large mammals and species of conservation concern.

We’re interested in how polar bears regulate their body temperature. Climate can influence the overall health and body condition of polar bears on both an individual and population level. As the climate changes, we expect warmer temperatures in the Arctic to affect polar bears on many levels, such as increased difficulty in catching seals due to a longer ice-free season. Further, increasing temperatures may cause thermal stress. For example, polar bears in Churchill must endure warm summer temperatures up to 30°C; how do they stay cool and not overheat? Additionally, for captive bears in the South, how do they stay cool when the temperature is far out of their comfort zone?

Our team is trying to better understand which behaviors contribute to a bear’s ability to stay cool in the summer or keep warm in the winter. We are using infrared thermography to non-invasively measure body temperature while simultaneously documenting polar bear behaviors to determine how they may affect body temperature.

Thermography techniques have been used to study polar bears in the past; however, the general conclusion was that the bears are almost too well insulated to measure their body temperature accurately. As thermography technology has continued to improve, though, the use of this technique has become more affordable, and the increased resolution now allows for more precise questions to be answered.

Our first mission was to establish an accurate method to determine a polar bear’s core temperature. Thermography has been used successfully in horses to diagnose fever using the eye temperature. Based on the thermal videos of the polar bears at the Assiniboine Park Zoo and in the wild, it appears the eye temperature remains fairly constant, making eyes the perfect candidate for further study. If eyes can provide a window into the internal temperature of the bear, we could potentially use thermography to study how fast bears warm up or cool off after entering or exiting the water.   

Our preliminary results show that the eye temperature is consistently a few degrees cooler than expected body temperature (from literature) and with quick mathematical calculations, we can accurately estimate the internal temperature of the bear.

Using non-invasive methods such as thermography to study polar bears will provide us with a more cost-effective and safer option to answer questions about polar bears, their health, and how climate change may be affecting both individuals and populations as a whole."

Polar Bears in a Different Light

I never knew that polar bears could adapt to such warm climates: I always thought they overheated. Well, there goes the notion that 'polar bears die instantly in hot weather.'
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( This post was last modified: 01-28-2016, 04:29 PM by brotherbear )

Grizzly Years by Doug Peacock.

Our official wilderness, the National Parks, are being civilized. They stress scenery and standardized recreation. The Blackfeet used these mountains for vision quests; their medicine people sought their patron animal, Real Bear, as a spirit guide, because the grizzly was more than the animal wearing the fur coat, he was the Medicine Grizzly.

The Grizzly Almanac by Robert H. Busch.

The Blackfeet called it "The Unmentionable One" or "The Real Bear" ( nitakyaio ). They called the black bear merely "Bear" ( kyaio ), denoting its lesser status.
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( This post was last modified: 01-28-2016, 04:32 PM by brotherbear )

Grizzly Years by Doug Peacock.

There is a whole chapter in Doug Peacock's book titled: THE SACRED BEAR OF THE BLACKFEET. There is far more than I have the energy or the necessary patience to copy one letter at a time by hand. But here is a small potion... American thinker and scholar Paul Shepard, writing with his colleague Barry Sanders, has said the Blackfeet myth of the bear has roots in some of the oldest of Asian religious traditions, customs which, like the American Indians', had a common origin in the prehistoric world and which live on in the language and ceremonies of the native peoples of the circumpolar north.

To the ancient Blackfeet the grizzly, whom they called Real Bear, was the most esteemed of all animals. Many surviving tales evolved from elements of the much older traditions of the Spirit Bear, the most common of which are variations in the story of the Medicine Grizzly.

The great bear was a healer and the source of power of the medicine pipe. The Blackfeet, following the way of the grizzly, held the pipe in both hands. Real Bear was killed only as a sacred enemy, and during such hunts the name of the bear was never spoken. Instead - and this indirect reference to bears occurred throughout the tribal cultures of circumpolar Europe, Asia, and North America - he was called Old Grandfather, Old Man, Old Honey Paws, or Crooked Tail.
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( This post was last modified: 01-28-2016, 06:40 PM by brotherbear )

Nature's Deadliest, The Grizzly Bear by Lisa Owings.

Ice Bears - Most grizzly bears sleep through the winter. Some wake up in the middle of winter to look for food. Their fur often gets wet and freezes. Native peoples once feared these "ice bears." They believed no weapon could pierce through the grizzly's armor of ice. 
                                                                                   
*This image is copyright of its original author
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( This post was last modified: 01-29-2016, 03:57 AM by brotherbear )

The Grizzly by Enos A. Mills.

The grizzly is easily the most popular animal in the National Parks. He really is the greatest animal on the continent. The grizzly walks: there is a dignity, a lordliness of carriage, and an indifference to all the world that impress themselves on the attention. Although known to the white race only a little more than a century, the grizzly has been a part of the life and legends of the Indians for countless generations. Often feared, frequently admired, his brain and brawn are featured again and again; he is always the acknowledged chief and master of the wilderness.
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( This post was last modified: 02-05-2016, 02:52 PM by brotherbear )

Animal facts and feats by Gerald L. Wood.
Dr. Sten Bergman ( 1936 ) of the State Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden, has described a giant variety of Kamchatka bear ( Ursus arctos piscator ) from the southern part of the peninsula, which he says exceeds even the Kodiak and Peninsula giant bears in size. He writes: "In the autumn of 1920 I was shown in Ust-Kamchatsk a pelt which far surpassed in size every other bear-skin I have ever seen. It was perfectly black and short-haired. It is asserted generally by the hunters that the very largest bears always are quite black. Besides this they always are short-haired, in contrast to the animals of normal proportions, which in general are very long-haired. Malaise has told me that on one occasion he saw the skull of a gigantic bear of the black kind; its teeth were perfect, and hence it could not have been that of an aged individual and photographed a bear's foot-print that was 37 cm ( 14.5 inches ) long and 25 cm ( 10 inches ) broad, so that the animal must have been a veritable giant. There is much, then, that speaks for the existence in Kamchatka of a quite black, gigantic bear, in addition to the ordinary brown type; but this question must remain an open one ..."
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( This post was last modified: 02-05-2016, 02:56 PM by brotherbear )

The Grizzly Almanac -
The Mystery of the Ungava Bear - Despite biologists who scoff at such a notion, there is a substantial body of evidence suggesting that a subspecies of grizzly once inhabited the remote forests of northern Quebec and eastern Labrador.

In 1550, French cartographer Pierre Desceliers drew the Desceliers Map, which shows three bears along the coast of Labrador. One is white and is obviously a polar bear, but the other two are brown. Both are the same size as the polar bear. According to the experts, only black bears and polar bears inhabit the region.

In the late 1700s, Captain Gearge Cartwright, one of the first English settlers in Labrador, wrote of a bear species in the area that was different from the polar and black bears, describing it as "a kind of bear very ferocious, having a white ring around its neck." Young grizzlies often have such a marking.

Modern natives of the area tell of the Great Bear of the Montagnais, a large, brown, and dangerous bear that used to live as far south as the Mealy Mountains of southern Labrador.

By the 19th century, the Hudson Bay Company had trading posts along the coast of Labrador and northern Quebec. One of its traders, John Maclean, worked for the Bay for six years at Fort Chimo on the southern shore of Ungava Bay. In his district report for 1837 to 1838, he lists three types of bear skins: black, Arctic ( polar ), and "grissle". And his description was from a trader who had spent four years in British Columbia and knew well what a "grissle" bear's hide looked like. He noted in a book about his years at Ungava Bay that "when we consider the great extent of country that intervenes between Ungava and the far west, it seems inexplicable that the grisly bear should be found in so insulated a situation ... the fact of their being there, however, does not admit of a doubt, for I have traded and sent to England several of their skins."

But is it really so unusual to expect a grizzly 500 miles east of its regular range? In the far north, grizzlies have been found 300 miles north of where biologists say they should be, and there is really no reason that grizzlies could not have spread from Southampton Island - their known easternmost limit - east to the coast of northern Quebec at one time.

And the trading records are hard to dispute. For example, Hudson Bay records for 1839 at Fort Chimo record that 1 black bear skin and 4 "grey bears" skins were traded. The Hudson Bay Company was the acknowledged expert in furtrading in Canada, so it is unlikely that one of its traders would be confused when it came to bear skins.

Captain William Kennedy, who worked in the Ungava District in the 1860s, stated that a variety of grizzly skins were traded at the Fort Chimo, Fort Nascapie, and Gearge River posts.

In addition to the Hudson Bay posts, there were a string of Moravian missions along the Labrador coast. Their records show that the Moravians had regularly traded skins of "grey" or "grizzly" bears for many decades, buying the last one in 1914. Indeed, by the late 1800s it appears that the Ungava bear was becoming rare.

Ethnologist L.M. Turner stayed at Fort Chino from 1882 to 1884 and stated that "the brown or barren-ground bear appears to be restricted to a narrow area and is not plentiful."

A.P. Lowe, a geologist who visited Labrador between 1892 and 1895, reported that "specimens of the barren-ground bear are obtained only at infrequent intervals ... skins are brought at intervals to Fort Chimo where the Indians have a favorable chance to kill ( one of these bears ). On other occasions they leave it alone, having a great respect for, and fear, of its ferocity and size.'

Around 1900, an independent trader named Martin Hunter, who owned a trading post on Anticosti Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, bought some large brown bear skins that came from southern Labrador. He reported that they were of "immense size ... One skin I got measured seven feet broad by nine feet long."

In the winter of 1905, American traveler Dillon Wallace spent some time at Fort Chino and reported that "a very large and ferocious brown bear ... inhabits the barrens to the eastward of George River." He stated that traders told him "the hair was very long, light brown in color, silver tipped and of a very different species from either the polar or black bear."

The Ungava brown bear, whatever species or subspecies it was, appears to have died out by the early 1900s. Intriguing evidence of its former existence came to light in 1997, however, when Harvard anthropologist Steven Cox unearthed the skull of a young female bear while excavating a late 18th-century Inuit midden at Okak Bay on the Labrador coast. The skull was identified as that of a grizzly.
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( This post was last modified: 02-05-2016, 03:03 PM by brotherbear )

Nandi Bear

Considered Africa’s most vicious beast, the Nandi Bear is a cryptid named for the Nandi people among whom it was reported to have lived in western Kenya. It also had various other names, including chemosit (or chimosit), kerit, duba, vere, kikambangwe, and sabrookoo. Because the descriptions given by those who witnessed it have been consistent since ancient times, and because it was sighted by Europeans and Westerners in addition to African tribes, there seems to be little reason to doubt the actual existence of a ferocious nocturnal carnivore.

According to the legend, the beast ate only the brains of its victims, both human and animal, and could decimate herds of cattle and sheep. To this day some of the locals believe the Nandi Bear is lurking about, though there have been few reported sightings.

According to observers, the Nandi Bear resembled a powerfully built upright tree-climbing hyena between 4 and 6 feet tall, with high front shoulders and a sloping back. It had thick dark reddish-brown or brown hair or fur, a thick mane, large teeth, and a long pointed head and snout, said to be similar to that of the American Brown Bear.

Several theories attempt to explain the mystery of the Nandi Bear. There are no bears in existence in Africa today; however, bears living in Africa have been mentioned in the writings of Pliny the Elder, a Roman scholar alive from 23 to 79 A.D., and in the writings of a scholar from the 17th century. The only bear known to be native to Africa after prehistoric times is the now-extinct Atlas Bear, and most cryptologists are in agreement that the Atlas Bear was strictly a northern bear with a readily apparent bright orange belly. Some believe the Nandi Bear to be a previously unknown species of Aardvark or a large baboon. Anthropologist Louis Leakey noted many similarities between the Nandi Bear and the now-extinct chalicothere, although the chalicothere was a herbivore.
The fiercely aggressive prehistoric hyena family comprised many more species than are recognized today. One species, Hyaena brevirostris, was very large and built like a bear, with a face also resembling that of a bear, unlike more recent hyena species whose face resembles a dog’s. Some researchers propose that the Nandi Bear was related to this hyena species.
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( This post was last modified: 02-05-2016, 08:59 PM by brotherbear )

The Beast that walks like Man by Harold McCracken.
The Indian was a keen observer of nature. He recognized the traits and peculiarities of all the creatures of the wilderness around him, as well as the many differences in species among the mammals and birds - far more clearly than the average white man of today who has not had zoological training. He recognized the close physical affinity between the animals and his own race. He realized the fundamental similarity between the long claws of the bear, and other wild creatures, and his own fingernails; that they had fingers and toes and ribs and a backbone, just as the Indian had. He knew they had a brain, heart and blood system and genital organs, and all the rest - of the same constitution and physical function as his own and his wife's. In conception and birth, throughout the sustaining of life, and the passing into the limbo of death, there was very little difference between them. When the bear stood erect, he walked like a man. But the was always the mightier of the two. And the bear was smart. "A bear is wiser than a man," an old Abnaki Indian sage once philosophized, "because a man does not know how to live all winter without eating anything."

The red man considered all living creatures as "other people," rather than the "dumb animals" by which we moderns degrade them. Many of the tribes believed that the animals had tribes just as the Indians had, with head chiefs and councils, and that some of them were supernaturally endowed with powers by which they could help human individuals in their daily pursuits, problems, and physical ailments. The Indians had a healthy religious belief in a Greater Power. "He is in the birds and wild animals, lakes and streams, prairies and mountains. He brings the leaves in the spring. He makes the grass and the berries grow; and upon them the birds and the animals depend for life ... The Thunder is a great bird. It flies with the clouds and brings the rain. From its eyes the lightnings flash. And the Blizzard is a person, who runs before the storm and shoots his arrows." This is taken from the Blackfoot philosophy of "the power of the sun," although it represents the general belief of the Great Plains tribes.
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( This post was last modified: 02-05-2016, 09:02 PM by brotherbear )

Everyone knows that the Indian was so named because he was thought to be a native of India, which the early Spanish explorers believed they had reached by sailing westward from Europe. There are other similar examples of errors which have persisted in spite of correction. We misnamed the American buffalo, which scientifically is not a buffalo at all but a bison, related to the European variety. The true buffalo is a short-haired creature without a prominent hump on his shoulders, such as the African buffalo and similar varieties found in southern Asia. But the vast herds of wild bovine in our West were named buffalo by the early plainsmen, buffalo they lived and died, and buffalo they will always continue to be known. The animal they named a moose is really an elk; our elk is not an elk at all; our mountain goat is not a goat; our wild sheep is not strictly a sheep; and even our antelope, sad to say, is likewise not a member of the antelope family. The explanations are too involved to go into here, and the layman is supposed to take the scientists' word for it.

Note: also the mountain lion is not a lion nor even a true "big cat"; not being a pantherine. This beautiful native of both North and South America is called by many names including cougar, puma, panther, and catamount.
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The Beast that walks like Man by Harold McCracken.
The Great Spirit made Mount Shasta first of all. That was thousands of summers ago, when there was no life of any kind upon the earth. There were no animals, for there was nothing for them to eat; and no birds, for there were no trees or flowers in which they might build their nests; and no fish, for the streams and rivers had not yet been made. But one day, as the Great Spirit looked down from his home up among the stars, he decided to come down to have a closer look at the earth. So he pushed down snow and ice through a hole in the blue sky, until he had made a mountain so great that it was easy to step down upon it from a big white cloud.

As he stood on top of the great mountain and looked around, the Great Spirit saw that the earth was entirely barren and lifeless. He decided to make the earth beautiful and create living things to enjoy it. Walking down out of the snow, he put his fingers into the bare ground, and green trees, grass, and flowers instantly sprang up and began spreading into forests that quickly covered the valleys and low hills. Then he told the sun to shine a little more brightly, to melt some of the snow on the great mountains, just enough so that the water would run down to nurture the forests and the flowers. With the end of his walking stick he marked out a place for the streams and rivers, which began carrying water out to fill the sea. Then he broke off the small end of his walking stick, which he crushed into small bits in his hand, and, casting these into the streams, they became the fish which swam away to spawn. Picking some leaves from the trees, he held them in the palm of his hand and, blowing them into the air, they became birds of many kinds which flew away singing, to build their nests. After this, very pleased with what he had done, the Great Spirit broke off some more of his walking stick and, casting larger bits of it about, they became animals of many kinds. He made them of many sizes, some weak and some swift of foot, and each one a little stronger or a little swifter than others, so they would each have a good chance of survival. And when he came to the large end of his walking stick, the heavy part that he always held in his right hand, he held it thoughtfully for some time, deciding just what sort of creature he should make out of this last sturdy piece; and then he made an animal that was to be mightier than any of the others and was to rule over all the rest. This was the grizzly bear. But, when this animal took form and life, it was so strong and aggressive that the Great Spirit had to climb hurriedly back to the mountain-top, to find a safe place to rest after performing all his labors of creating life on the earth.
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( This post was last modified: 02-07-2016, 03:19 PM by brotherbear )

The Beast that walks like Man by Harold McCracken.
The Indian was a keen observer of nature. He recognized the traits and peculiarities of all the creatures of the wilderness around him, as well as the many differences in species among the mammals and birds - far more clearly than the average white man of today who has not had zoological training. He recognized the close physical affinity between the animals and his own race. He realized the fundamental similarity between the long claws of the bear, and other wild creatures, and his own fingernails; that they had fingers and toes and ribs and a backbone, just as the Indian had. He knew they had a brain, heart and blood system and genital organs, and all the rest - of the same constitution and physical function as his own and his wife's. In conception and birth, throughout the sustaining of life, and the passing into the limbo of death, there was very little difference between them. When the bear stood erect, he walked like a man. But the was always the mightier of the two. And the bear was smart. "A bear is wiser than a man," an old Abnaki Indian sage once philosophized, "because a man does not know how to live all winter without eating anything."

The red man considered all living creatures as "other people," rather than the "dumb animals" by which we moderns degrade them. Many of the tribes believed that the animals had tribes just as the Indians had, with head chiefs and councils, and that some of them were supernaturally endowed with powers by which they could help human individuals in their daily pursuits, problems, and physical ailments. The Indians had a healthy religious belief in a Greater Power. "He is in the birds and wild animals, lakes and streams, prairies and mountains. He brings the leaves in the spring. He makes the grass and the berries grow; and upon them the birds and the animals depend for life ... The Thunder is a great bird. It flies with the clouds and brings the rain. From its eyes the lightnings flash. And the Blizzard is a person, who runs before the storm and shoots his arrows." This is taken from the Blackfoot philosophy of "the power of the sun," although it represents the general belief of the Great Plains tribes.
 Grizzly  - Boss of the Woods.
        
  
             
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( This post was last modified: 02-07-2016, 05:07 PM by brotherbear )

The Beast That Walks Like a Man by Harold McCracken.
Probably the first white man to ever witness the Bear Dance of the Utes, and one of the few to be privileged to learn some of its tenets, was Verner Z. Reed. In March of 1893 he was permitted to attend the sacred ceremony held in the valley of the Rio de los Pinos, a beautiful little tributary of the great San Juan, in the southwest corner of Colorado. Incidentally, this is not far from one of the last rugged strongholds where both the grizzly and the Utes are today struggling against complete extinction as species in that state.
The Utes believe that their primal ancestors were bears ( grizzlies )," reported Reed after learning what he was permitted to know about the significance of the ceremony and its traditional background. "After these ( the bears ) came a race of Indians, who, on dying, were changed back into bears, and as bears they roamed in the forests and mountains until they died, when they went to the Future Land and lived with the shades ( spirits ), preserving the forms of bears, but having human wisdom and participating in the pleasures of immortality. It is believed that this transmigration ceased a long time ago, but the bears of the present ( 1893 ) are believed to be descendants of the Ute bears of old, and are therefore related to the Indians. Bear worship, in one form or another, tinges many of their ceremonies.

The Utes believed that the grizzlies possessed great magic powers and wisdom, which they were capable of transmitting over long distances, and they also believed that the bears were fully aware of the ancestral relationship between themselves and the Utes. The ceremony of the Bear Dance was therefore an aid to continuing and strengthening this friendship and also of charming the dancers as a means of protecting them from death by these mighty bears. There were also other motives involved in the affair. Important among these was the sending of messages to their dead relatives and friends who dwelt in the land of immortality; also to assist the bears to recover from winter hibernation, to find food, and to choose mates; and it was on occasion for springtime courting and love-making among Indians themselves.

That the bear was accorded human relationship, and semi-divinity, with a spirit of a higher order than others, even above man in some instances, is borne out in the lore and legends of a great many primitive racial groups in North America and other continents as well.
 Grizzly  - Boss of the Woods.
        
  
             
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