Origin of the Bear

Long ago, there was a Cherokee clan called the Ani Tsaguhi. In one family of this clan was a boy who used to leave home and be gone all day in the mountains. After a while, he went more often and stayed longer, until at last he would not in the house at all; he started off at daybreak and would not return until night had fallen.

His parents scolded, but to no avail – the boy still went every day until they noticed that long brown hair was beginning to grow all over his body. They wondered and asked him why it was that he wanted to be in the woods so much that he would not even eat at home. The boy said, “I find plenty to eat there, better than the corn and beans we have in the settlements, and soon I am going into the woods to stay.”

His parents worried and begged him not to leave them, but he said, “It is better there than here. You see that I am beginning to be different already, so that I can not live here any longer. If you will come with me, there is plenty for all of us. You will never have to work for it, but if you want to come, you must first fast for seven days.”

The father and mother talked it over, and then told the head man of the clan. They held a council about the matter, and after all was said and done, they said, “Here we must work hard and may not always have enough. There, he says, is always plenty without work. We will go with him.”

So they fasted for seven days, and on the seventh morning, all of the Ani Tsaguhi left the settlement and started for the mountains with the boy leading the way.

When the people of the other towns heard of it, they were saddened and sent their head men to persuade the Ani Tsaguhi to stay home, not go into the woods to live. The messengers found them, already on the way, and were surprised to notice that their bodies were beginning to be covered with hair like that of animals because they had not taken human food for seven days and their nature was changing. The Ani Tsaguhi would not come back, but said, “We are going where there is always plenty to eat. Hereafter, we shall be called Yonu (Bear), and when you yourselves are hungry, come into the woods and call on us, and we shall come to give you our own flesh. You need not be afraid to kill us, for we shall live always.”

Then they taught the messengers the songs with which to call them, and the bear hunters have the songs still. When they had finished the songs, the Ani Tsaguhi continued into the woods, while the messengers turned back to the settlements. After going a little way, the messengers looked back, and saw a drove ob bears going into the woods.

The Bear Song

He-e! Ani Tsaguhi, Ani Tsaguhi

Akvanduli elanti ginunti

Ani Tsaguhi, Ani Tsaguhi,

Akvanduli elanti ginunti, Yu!

He-e! The Ani Tsaguhi, the Ani Tsaguhi,

I want to lay them low on the ground,

The Ani Tsaguhi, the Ani Tsaguhi,

I want to lay them low on the ground, Yu