Native American Tales

When Grizzlies Walked Upright

When Grizzlies Walked UprightWhen Grizzlies Walked Upright


Chief Spirit of the Sky got tired of living up above and alone with all the ice and snow. He made a hole and pushed all the ice and snow down below. It made a large hill, a mountain, which was to be called Mount Shasta. He took his walking stick and walked down the mountain. He put his finger down and wherever he did, trees grew. He made animals by breaking up his stick. This piece was this animal; this piece was that animal. The biggest animals he made were grizzly bears, but at the time, they walked upright and could talk.

The Chief Spirit decided to bring his family down to live with him. They lived inside of Mount Shasta, like a great lodge. One day a terrible storm was blowing that shook the lodge. The Chief Spirit asked his daughter to climb up to the smoke hole and ask the wind spirit if he would blow more gently, but he told her to be careful not to stick her head out, otherwise, the wind might blow her away. The daughter was careful, but she remembered she had been told that the ocean could be seen from Mount Shasta and she wanted a peek. As such, she stuck her head out, just a bit too far, and the wind picked her up and blew her away.

Some grizzlies found her and raised her as their own instead of returning her to her rightful family. When she was grown up, she married one of the grizzly sons. They had children, who didn’t have quite as much fur as the grizzlies. They could also stand upright and talk. The grizzlies were very proud of their new creation and the girl was given a lodge all her own near Mount Shasta and it was called Little Mount Shasta.

After some time, the grizzly mother knew she would die and wanted the forgiveness of the Chief Spirit. So she gathered together all the new creatures at the lodge and went to tell the Chief Spirit that his daughter was alive. He was very pleased. He took great strides down the mountain, melting the ice and snow, and soon came upon his daughter, but she was a woman now and not a girl. This made him angry. He was also a bit upset about having a new creature created without him. He cursed the grizzlies to walk on all fours and never talk again. He took his daughter away and she was never seen in the forest again.

These new creatures became the ancestors of the natives. To this day, grizzlies are not killed in the area. If a man is killed by a grizzly, people throw stones upon the spot where he died until there is a large pile.


As I may have mentioned, I’m not all the way white. I’m part Cherokee and some other tribes thrown into the mix as well, including Sioux. Some members of my family will not eat bear. Some say it looks like a man hanging in a tree, when it’s hung up to be cleaned, and won’t eat it, but other members of my family will. So we don’t really hold any particular belief about eating bear in my family, although, I have never eaten it.

Like my family, the practice of eating bear is different between different tribes. Some tribes eat bears and some do not. They each have their reasons. Bear grease is supposedly really good for your hair, but I’ve never tried that either. This is the story of why one tribe doesn’t eat bear.

This story also describes the geography of Mount Shasta. It’s a volcano. That makes sense. The Chief Spirit used it as a lodge. Sometimes it shook. He built his fire inside of it. There was a smoke hole. That’s a volcano. Mount Shasta is not the tallest mountain in the United States, but it is one of the taller ones. The natives of the area probably didn’t know any taller peaks and assumed that Mount Shasta was the tallest one, and therefore, was perfect for the gods to descend upon. If you didn’t know what a volcano was, you would make up your own explanation.


One of the things I would like to point out about this story is the idea of creation. When some scriptures mention the concept of creation, they’re not referring to the idea that God made the world in seven days; they’re referring to conception, as in, you conceived a baby. The Chief Spirit was angry that something had been created without him, but he was also angry that his daughter got knocked up. In religion, a lot of religions actually, you’re not supposed to be having babies outside of marriage. You get married and whatever babies, and sex, you have is sanctified by God. I’ve even heard people say that if you wait to get married to have sex and you have sex after you’re married, that you’re still a virgin because you did the whole thing with God’s approval. Yeah, ok.

Moving on, there are people who will say things like premarital sex is playing with the powers of creation when you have no right to. If you have a baby out of wedlock, you’re creating something that was not ok’ed by God. You didn’t do the whole thing in the proper manner.

The people in this story didn’t do the proper thing in the proper manner. They created something without the Chief Spirit having a hand in it, but if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have the human race. Where would we be otherwise? Would the human race have ever been created had the proper thing been done in the proper manner? Goodness, would half of us be here if the proper thing had been done in the proper manner?


Don’t knock the Chief Spirits daughter up, or maybe do, I’m not sure.

Weigh In

Would you eat a bear?

What do you think about the idea of being half bear?


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