Grizzles and an Indian Myth

by Dave Hanks

The following is a story told to me in a Grizzly Bear seminar I took some years ago. It involves a Flathead Indian tale about the great bear.

Once upon a time, the Great Spirit had his tepee on the top of a tall mountain. He, also, had a daughter who was very winsome and desirable. This daughter loved the beautiful wildflowers that grew on the mountain side. One day, as she was skipping along - singing and picking flowers - the Grizzlies saw her and desired to have her for their own. So, they kidnapped her and married her to one of the bears. After a time, knowing that the Great Spirit would be concerned and worried, they told him what they had done. The Great Spirit quelled his anger upon receiving this knowledge and tempered his justice.

In those days the great bear walked on hind legs and was master of all things wild. But the consequences of the bear’s actions resulted in the Great Spirit requiring the bear to walk on all fours. It could only stand on two legs in order to survey its surroundings, to satisfy its curiosity, or to look for danger.

The result of the daughter’s marriage was a baby that was hairless, like the mother, but brown like the father. It was the first Flathead Indian. The Grizzly now had to share its role as master equally with the Indian - each giving the other mutual respect and space.

The Grizzly, having evolved in more open areas where cover is sparse, grew larger than its cousin the Black Bear. That, also, necessitated the development of a very aggressive disposition to accompany the extra size. There is nothing on the North American continent to challenge this beast except Man – who, also, has a healthy fear and respect for the bear.

It is difficult for the two species to live side by side, but the Indians in past times have accomplished this task. This is, perhaps, because of knowing each others ways and having a mutual respect for each other – to live and let live.

(On the move amid the sage)