Alaskool -- Online resources about Alaska Native History, Education, Language, and Culture
Tsimshian Texts by Franz Boas, 1902
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The Grizzly Bear

Told By Moses

There were four brothers, the sons of a great chief.  Their mother was a great chieftainess.  They lived in a large town.  In midwinter the people had eaten all the winter provisions, and were starving.  The brothers were great hunters.  Now, the two eldest ones remembered what they used to do, because they were starving.  They were hunters, and they went out together.  The wife of the eldest one did not accompany him.  They went a long distance, and came to a house where they stayed over night.  In the morning the younger brother rose.  He had two powerful dogs.  He started, carrying his lance.  He put on his snowshoes and went.  He came to the foot of a mountain.  He climbed it, and when he was halfway up the mountain he heard the voice of his dog up above.  He could not climb any higher because there was a glacier.  Then he took his little stone ax and chopped steps in the glacier.  Thus he came to the foot of a ridge on which a tree was standing.  There his dogs were barking.  When he came near, he saw a large Grizzly Bear and two large cubs in a hole under the tree.  As soon as he went near, the Grizzly Bear stretched out her arms and pulled the man into her den.  She killed him.  Then his brothers had lost him. 

After two days, when he did not return, the next brother rose.  He also had two dogs.  He started, carrying his lance.  He came to the same place where his brother had been.  The dogs ran up the mountain, and he came to the steps that his brother had chopped in the glacier.  He climbed up, and he also came to the Grizzly Bear.  She took him into her den, and the cubs killed him.  He and his two dogs were dead.  In this way another brother was lost. 

Only one remained.  He was a very awkward man.  He also rose and started early in the morning.  He carried his lance, and his two dogs accompanied him.  He put on his snowshoes and went up the mountain on the same trail that his brothers had taken.  Now he heard the dogs barking.  He went near, and had just placed himself in position when the great Grizzly Bear stretched out her arms, and the great man fell into the den headlong.  Then he struck the Grizzly Bear and his hand got into her vulva.  Then she said to her cubs, “My dear ones, make the fire burn brightly, for your father is cold.”  She felt much ashamed because the man had struck her vulva, therefore she felt kindly toward him, and did not kill him.  She liked him.  She said, “I will marry you.”  And the big man agreed.  Then the great Grizzly Bear was very glad because the Indian had married her. 

When he had stayed there many years and was lost to his people, he said one day that he longed for his father and his mother, his wife, his little boy, and his little sister, and that he wished to go home.  The great Grizzly Bear agreed, and she said, "I will accompany you."  On the next morning they went down the mountain and approached the town.  Now the great man entered.  The great chief, his father, his mother, and his wife were crying.  The man entered and sat down.  Then he said that his wife was standing outside the village, and found the great Grizzly Bear.  She ran into the house crying, because she was much afraid.  "A great ugly monster is standing outside."  Then the man, the great Grizzly Bear's husband, went out himself.  He called her into the house, and she entered.  Then she sat down on a mat that they had spread for her.  Her paws were very large, and the chief and his wife were scared.  Then they ate salmon, and she also ate; and they gave her a dish filled with crab apple mixed with grease, and she ate it.  The people were much astonished.

After a while the great Grizzly Bear said to her husband, "Give me your child; I wish to see it."  Then the man took the child, because the great Grizzly Bear wanted to have it.  He gave it to her, and the child did not cry. 

Another day the Bear said, "Call your wife."  Then the woman came, the first wife of the man.  She entered and sat down next to the man, her own husband.  Later he had married the Grizzly Bear.  His one wife was the Bear, the other was a woman of his own tribe.  The woman only had a child.  The Grizzly Bear had no children.  But her own children were in her house on the mountain.  They had not accompanied her when she came out of the woods.  Thus they lived for many months.

When it came to be summer, just before the berries were ripe, the great Grizzly Bear said to the woman, "I think the berries are ripe on my mountain," and asked her to accompany her.  They went up the mountain, and found that the berries were ripening, and they picked them.  The woman picked her berries into a bag, but the great Grizzly Bear had no bag.  Her stomach was her bag.  She just ate the berries she picked.  Then they returned.  They approached their husband's house and entered.  The Grizzly Bear said, "Now call the people."  Then one man went out to invite the people in.  The woman took her bag to the middle of the house.  The great Grizzly Bear was also in the house.  The great Grizzly Bear said to her husband, "Take some dishes to the rear of the house."  Her husband did so.  Then she defecated into a dish, and the berries she had eaten fell into it.  Now the dish was full of berries that she had picked.  The Indians saw her defecating into the dishes.  Then the Grizzly Bear told the man to take the dishes that were full of what had come out of her anus and place them before the people; but they were afraid to eat it because they had seen that they had come out of her anus.  They only ate the berries that the Indian woman had picked.  They took home the food that the great Grizzly Bear had given them, and the wives of the people ate it at their own house.  Then the great Grizzly Bear was glad. 

Now, salmon were in the river in front of town.  The chief made a weir, and placed a fish trap in it.  He finished it.  In the evening the people went to sleep, and before daybreak the great Grizzly Bear rose and went down to the weir.  She saw that the trap was full of salmon, and she emptied it.  She took the salmon into the house.  Then she ordered the chief, her father-in-law, to distribute them among the people.  He did so.  The next night she did the same, but the people did not know it.  She did so many days.  Then she and the woman dried many salmon, and the house was full of fish that she and the other woman had dried. 

One morning a young man went down to the weir.  When he saw that there were no salmon in the trap, because the great Grizzly Bear had taken them up to her husband's house, he felt badly.  He grew angry, and scolded the great Grizzly Bear.  He felt badly because he did not get anything.  The young man said, "You rise too early, great Drop-jaw."  Thus he said to the great Grizzly Bear, and he scolded again, "You feed us with your excrements."  Then the great Grizzly Bear took notice of it.  She became angry, ran out, and rushed up to the man who was scolding her.  She rushed into the house, took him, and killed him.  She tore his flesh to pieces and broke his bones.  Then she went.  Now she remembered her own people and her two children.  She was very angry, and she went home.  Her husband followed her, but the great Grizzly Bear said, "Return home, or I shall kill you."  But the man refused, because he loved his great wife.  The Grizzly Bear spoke to him twice, wanting him to go back, but he refused.  Then she rushed upon him and killed him, and her own husband was dead.  Then the great Grizzly Bear left.