Cumberland Academy

Bear clan

There is a Cherokee Bear legend about the Ani Tsaguhi.  http:www.firstpeople us/.  A young man from this clan makes his way more and more frequently to the mountains.  After a while his parents notice that the young man is growing long brown hair.  He is transforming and wants to live away from the people.  His parents decide to follow and live where he lives.

The clan elders try to persuade the Ani Tsaguhi to stay at home. They send messengers who are “surprised to notice that their bodies were beginning to be covered with hair like that of animals, because for seven days they had not taken human food 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 Yonv(a) (bears), and when you yourselves are hungry come into the woods and call 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 bear hunters have these songs still. When they had finished the songs, the Ani Tsaguhi started on again and the messengers turned back to the settlements, but after going a little way they looked back and saw a drove of bears going into the woods.”

In this story, the bears will live always.  The humans shape shift into bears and the bears teach the sacred songs, reveal the mysteries, so that the hunters will always have good fortune.

In a similar Cherokee story, told to me last month, by Cherokee elder Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, a young man wants to join the Buffalo people but can’t until he proves that he walks among them with great respect.

The old myths teach the good ways (Native American) or right relationship (Buddhist.) They present the political principles through which we are to govern ourselves and our habitats.

How far we have come from this: later Western stories reflect our ignorance and disregard.  The commentary after the myth on the Indigenous People’s Literature site is “Aho. We are all related.”  This is the essential principal from which good governance develops.

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