Friday, September 02, 2011

“The Story of the Mound” by John Muir

    "I beg here to digress enough to state that the Indians, until taught better by the white man, would not harm a grizzly bear, even in self-defense. For they held that the grizzly bear was the father of the Indian. The mother of the Indian they asserted to have been the daughter of the Creator, who dwelt in Mount Shasta. They held that the mountain was, of old, hollow like a tent; that they could see the smoke coming out from the top of the great wigwam. And their story is to the effect that once when the wind was blowing fearfully from the ocean-which may be seen from the summit of the mountain on any day of exceptional clearness-the Great Spirit sent his daughter up to beseech the wind to be still; that he warned her not to put her head out for fear the wind would get into her hair, which was long as the rainbow, and blow her away. Being a woman, however, she put her head away out, and so was blown out and down to the very bottom of the snow where the chief of the grizzly bears was camped with his family. The Indians further insist that the grizzly bear at that time talked, walked erect, and even went hunting with bow and arrows and spear, and the story goes on to say that, in violation of all the laws of hospitality, the daughter of the Great Spirit was made captive and compelled to be the wife of the chief's son, and so became the mother of all good Indians. Finally, when the Great Spirit found out what had happened to his daughter, he came out and down the mountain in a great fury; and calling all the bears together he broke their hands and feet with a club and made them get down on their all-fours like other beasts. He made them shut their mouths so that they could talk no more forever, and then, going back and down into the hollow of Mount Shasta, he put out the fire in his wigwam and was seen no more. They point to the three great black spots on the south side of the mountain and say these are his footprints and explain that he descended the whole vast cone in three long strides, showing how very angry he was. And as evidence of the truthfulness of what they say about their origin, they point to the fact that the grizzly bear is even yet permitted to use his fists and stand up and fight like a man when hard pressed.

All the Indians believe to this day that the grizzly bear can talk, if you will only sit still when he comes up and hear what he has to say. But this may not be advisable. However, I know one wrinkled and leather-looking old woman, a century old perhaps, who used almost daily go out to a heap of rocks on the edge of a thicket and talk, as she said, with a grizzly bear. She was greatly respected."

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