Native American Bear Stories

Native American Indian Folklore & Symbols -- The Bear

Among the Pueblo tribes, bears are considered one of the six directional guardians, associated with the west and the color blue. The Zunis ascribe healing powers to bears and carve stone bear fetishes to protect them and bring them luck. A bear's claw was one of the talismans frequently included in medicine bundles, and warriors in some tribes wore necklaces of bear claws to bring them power and strength. There were also many taboos regarding bears in different Native American tribes-- the use of hunting seasons (to avoid killing mother bears with their cubs) was the most common, but in some tribes, it was considered disrespectful and dangerous to insult bears, step on their scat, or even utter their names outside of certain ritual contexts. Among the Innu, it was taboo for children or unmarried women to eat bear meat, and some Apache tribes did not eat bears at all.

In folklore, Bear is often portrayed either as a sort of enforcer figure who punishes disrespectful or improper behavior among other animals and people, or as a humorless "straight man" for weaker but cleverer trickster characters to play against. Bear personalities in these stories range from wise and noble, to morally upright but somewhat stupid and gullible, to aggressive and intimidating, but in most cases, they do not bother people who have not done anything wrong. (There are a few exceptions to this-- in some tribes, such as the Cherokee, bears are sometimes portrayed as violent enemies of humans, although they are still an important clan animal to the Cherokees. Some tribes also tell stories about monsters resembling man-eating bears the size of elephants, which prey on innocent people and must be slain by heroes.) The devoted maternal behavior of female bears is often noted in folktales, with mother bears sacrificing themselves for their cubs or adopting human children.

Bears are also one of the most important and widespread clan animals in Native American cultures. Tribes with Bear Clans include the Creek (whose Bear Clan is named Nokosalgi or Nokosvlke,) the Chippewa (whose Bear Clan and its totem are called Nooke,) Algonquian tribes such as the Mi'kmaq and Menominee, the Huron and Iroquois tribes, Plains tribes such as the Caddo and Osage, the Hopi (whose Bear Clan is called Honngyam or Hona-wungwa), the Navajo and Pueblo tribes of New Mexico, and Northwest Coast tribes such as the Tlingit, Tsimshian, Nisgaa-Gitksan, and Salishan tribes. Bear was an important clan crest on the Northwest Coast and can often be found carved on totem poles. And many eastern tribes, such as the Caddo, Lenape, and Iroquois, have a Bear Dance among their tribal dance traditions.


Badger and the Bear (Lakota)
Bear's Lodge (Kiowa)
Bear and Deer Children (Pohonichi Miwok)
Bear and his Indian Wife (Haida)
Bear and Rabbit Hunt Buffalo (Sioux)
Bear And Raccoon Boy (Nez Perce / Nee-Me-Poo)
Bear and the Fawns (Miwok)
Bear Cubs (Mashkussut)
Bears And Coyote (Nez Perce / Nee-Me-Poo)
Bear Legend (Cherokee)
Bear Man (Cherokee)
Bear Mother (Haida)
Bear Woman (Blackfoot)
Bear Leads A Boy Astray (Nez Perce / Nee-Me-Poo)
Bears (Blackfoot)
Bear-Woman and Deer-Woman (Lassik)

Child fed and cared for by a Porcupine and a Bear (Seneca)
Chipmunk and the Bear (Seneca)

Great Bear and the six hunters.
Or, The Seven Stars of the Dipper (Seneca)

How Lox deceived the Ducks, cheated the Chief,
and beguiled the Bear (Passamaquoddy and Micmac)

How Master Lox Played A Trick
On Mrs Bear, Who Lost Her Eyesight
And Had Her Eyes Opened (Micmac)

How Po'okong killed the Bear (Hopi)
John the Bear (Assiniboin)
Legend of the Bear Family (Penobscot)
Legend of the Big Bear (Micmac)
The Man who Married a Bear (Nez Perce / Nee-Me-Poo)
Medicine Grizzly Bear (Pawnee)
Mooin, the Bear's Child (Wabanaki)
Muin, The Bear's Child (Micmac)
Mother Bear's Song (Cherokee)
Mt. Shasta Grizzly Legend (Shasta)
Mother Bear's Song (Cherokee)
Origin of Bears (Cherokee)
Puma and the Bear (Ute)
Rabbit dines the Bear (Cherokee)
Race Between Bear and Turtle (Seneca)
Bear's race with Turtle (Seneca)
White Faced Bear (Aleuts)
Wonderings of the Bear Clan (Hopi)
Youtube Videos

Oral Traditions of the Iroquois

Boy Who Lived With the Bears (Video)
Boy Who Lived With the Bears
Chipmunk and Bear (Video)
Chipmunk and Bear
How Bear Lost His Tail
Hunting of the Great Bear
Turtle's Race With Bear

Grizzly, Brown and other Bears (Photo Gallery)

Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Compiled by: Glenn Welker

Copyright @ 1993-2016

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