Myths & Legends



Cherokee: Origin of the Bear

An origin tale, the origin of the Bear from the Cherokee.
— Orly


LONG ago, before the white man came, in the land of the Cherokees was a clan called the Ani Tsagulin. One of the boys of the clan used to wander all day long in the mountains. He never ate his food at home.

“Why do you do so?” asked his father and mother. The boy did not answer.

“Why do you do so?” they asked many days, as the boy wandered away into the hills. He did not answer them.

Then his mother saw that long brown hair covered his body. They said again, “Where do you go?” They asked, “Why do you not eat at home?”

At last the boy said, “There is plenty to eat there. It is better than the corn in the village. Soon I shall stay in the woods all the time.”

His father and mother said, “No.”

The boy kept saying, “It is better than here. I am beginning to be different. Soon I shall not want to live here. If you come with me you will not have to hunt, or to plant corn. But first you must fast seven days.”

The people began to talk about it. They said, “Often we do not have enough to eat here. There he says there is plenty. We will go with him.”

So they fasted seven days. Then they left their village and went to the mountains.

Now the other tribes had heard what they had talked in their village. At once they sent messengers. But when the messengers met them, they had started towards the mountains and their hair was long and brown. Their nature was changing. This was because they had fasted seven days. But the Ani Tsagulin would not go back to their village. They said to the others:

“We are going where there is always plenty to eat. Hereafter we shall be called Yana, bears. When you are hungry, come into the woods and call us, and we will give you food to eat.”

So they taught these messengers how to call them and to hunt them. Because, even though they may seem to be killed, the Ani Tsagulin live forever.



Source:  K.B.J. [1]

Culture:  Cherokee

Language Group:  Cherokee (Tsalagi Gawonihisdi) is an Iroquoian language spoken by the Cherokee people. It is the only Southern Iroquoian language and differs significantly from the other Iroquoian languages.

Related Reading

Navajo: Jicarilla Apache Creation

Ottawa: The Magician of Lake Huron