The Great Grizzly Bear

(Ursus Ferox.)

"The Indians have unbounded reverence for this bear. When they kill

one, they make exculpating speeches to it, smoke tobacco to it, call

it grandfather, ancestor, etc."

P. MARTIN DUNCAN, M. B., F. R. S., F. G. S.

Kings College, London.

The Indians with whom I once lived in the Californian Sierras held the

grizzly bear in great r
spect and veneration. Some writers have said

that this was because they were afraid of this terrible king of

beasts. But this is not true. The Indian, notwithstanding his almost

useless bow and arrow in battles with this monster, was not controlled

by fear. He venerated the grizzly bear as his paternal ancestor. And

here I briefly set down the Modoc and Mount Shasta Indians' account of

their own creation.

They, as in the Biblical account of the creation of all things, claim

to have found the woods, wild beasts, birds and all things waiting for

them, as did Adam and Eve.

The Indians say the Great Spirit made this mountain first of all. Can

you not see how it is? they say. He first pushed down snow and ice

from the skies through a hole which he made in the blue heavens by

turning a stone round and round, till he made this great mountain;

then he stepped out of the clouds onto the mountain-top, and descended

and planted the trees all around by putting his finger on the ground.

The sun melted the snow, and the water ran down and nurtured the trees

and made the rivers. After that he made the fish for the rivers out of

the small end of his staff. He made the birds by blowing some leaves,

which he took up from the ground, among the trees. After that he made

the beasts out of the remainder of his stick, but made the grizzly

bear out of the big end, and made him master over all the others. He

made the grizzly so strong that he feared him himself, and would have

to go up on top of the mountain out of sight of the forest to sleep at

night, lest the grizzly, who, as will be seen, was much more strong

and cunning then than now, should assail him in his sleep. Afterwards,

the Great Spirit, wishing to remain on earth and make the sea and some

more land, converted Mount Shasta, by a great deal of labor, into a

wigwam, and built a fire in the center of it and made it a pleasant

home. After that, his family came down, and they all have lived in the

mountain ever since. They say that before the white man came they

could see the fire ascending from the mountain by night and the smoke

by day, every time they chose to look in that direction. They say that

one late and severe springtime, many thousand snows ago, there was a

great storm about the summit of Mount Shasta, and that the Great

Spirit sent his youngest and fairest daughter, of whom he was very

fond, up to the hole in the top, bidding her to speak to the storm

that came up from the sea, and tell it to be more gentle or it would

blow the mountain over. He bade her do this hastily, and not put her

head out, lest the wind should catch her in the hair and blow her

away. He told her she should only thrust out her long red arm and make

a sign, and then speak to the storm without.

The child hastened to the top and did as she was bid, and was about to

return, but having never yet seen the ocean, where the wind was born

and made his home, when it was white with the storm, she stopped,

turned and put her head out to look that way, when lo! the storm

caught in her long red hair, and blew her out and away down and down

the mountain side. Here she could not fix her feet in the hard, smooth

ice and snow, and so slid on and on down to the dark belt of firs

below the snow rim.

Now, the grizzly bears possessed all the wood and all the land down to

the sea at that time, and were very numerous and very powerful. They

were not exactly beasts then, although they were covered with hair,

lived in caves and had sharp claws; but they walked on two feet, and

talked, and used clubs to fight with, instead of their teeth and

claws, as they do now.

At this time, there was a family of grizzlies living close up to the

snows. The mother had lately brought forth, and the father was out in

quest of food for the young, when, as he returned with his club on his

shoulder and a young elk in his left hand, under his arm, he saw this

little child, red like fire, hid under a fir-bush, with her long hair

trailing in the snows, and shivering with fright and cold. Not knowing

what to make of her, he took her to the old mother, who was very

learned in all things, and asked her what this fair and frail thing

was that he had found shivering under a fir-bush in the snow. The old

mother grizzly, who had things pretty much her own way, bade him

leave the child with her, but never mention it to anyone, and she

would share her breast with her, and bring her up with the other

children, and maybe some great good would come of it.

The old mother reared her as she promised to do, and the old hairy

father went out every day, with his club on his shoulder, to get food

for his family, till they were all grown up and able to do for


"Now," said the old mother Grizzly to the old father Grizzly, as he

stood his club by the door and sat down one day, "our oldest son is

quite grown up and must have a wife. Now, who shall it be but the

little red creature you found in the snow under the black fir-bush."

So the old father Grizzly kissed her, said she was very wise, then

took up his club on his shoulder and went out and killed some meat for

the marriage feast.

They married and were very happy, and many children were born to

them. But, being part of the Great Spirit and part of the grizzly

bear, these children did not exactly resemble either of their parents,

but partook somewhat of the nature and likeness of both. Thus was the

red man created; for these children were the first Indians.

All the other grizzlies throughout the black forests, even down to the

sea, were very proud and very kind, and met together, and, with their

united strength, built for the lovely little red princess a wigwam

close to that of her father, the Great Spirit. This is what is now

called "Little Mount Shasta."

After many years, the old mother Grizzly felt that she soon must die,

and, fearing that she had done wrong in detaining the child of the

Great Spirit, she could not rest till she had seen him and restored to

him his long-lost treasure and asked his forgiveness.

With this object in view, she gathered together all the grizzlies at

the new and magnificent lodge built for the princess and her children,

and then sent her eldest grandson to the summit of Mount Shasta in a

cloud, to speak to the Great Spirit and tell him where he could find

his long-lost daughter.

When the Great Spirit heard this, he was so glad that he ran down the

mountain side on the south so fast and strong that the snow was melted

off in places, and the tokens of his steps remain to this day. The

grizzlies went out to meet him by thousands; and as he approached they

stood apart in two great lines, with their clubs under their arms, and

so opened a lane through which he passed in great state to the lodge

where his daughter sat with her children.

But when he saw the children, and learned how the grizzlies that he

had created had betrayed him into the creation of a new race, he was

very wroth, and frowned on the old mother Grizzly till she died on

the spot. At this, the grizzlies all set up a dreadful howl; but he

took his daughter on his shoulder and, turning to all the grizzlies,

bade them hold their tongues, get down on their hands and knees and so

remain till he returned. They did as they were bid, and he closed the

door of the lodge after him, drove all the children out into the

world, passed out and up the mountain and never returned to the timber

any more.

So the grizzlies could not rise up any more, or make a noise, or use

their clubs, but ever since have had to go on all-fours, much like

other beasts, except when they have to fight for their lives; then the

Great Spirit permits them to stand up and fight with their fists like


That is why the Indians about Mount Shasta will never kill or

interfere in any way with a grizzly. Whenever one of their number is

killed by one of these kings of the forest, he is burned on the spot,

and all who pass that way for years cast a stone on the place till a

great pile is thrown up. Fortunately, however, grizzlies are not now

plentiful about the mountain.

In proof of the story that the grizzly once stood and walked erect and

was much like a man, they show that he has scarcely any tail, and that

his arms are a great deal shorter than his legs, and that they are

more like a man than any other animal.