Flathead - Girl Receives Bear Power
(Story from a Flathead Indian Woman - Montana)
One day when she was a girl just about six or seven winters, her mother told her they were going berrying in the mountains. They rode double on her horse and went high into the mountains. It was getting late in the evening. The girl saw a patch of bushes and told her mother, "Look, there are some berries and plenty of them."
Her mother said, "Child have patience, a little farther up is the place where we will get our berries."
So they went on and on until the sun was just about going down when her mother stopped their horse and said "Here is the place where we are going to pick."
They got off their horse, her Mother picked some berries, put them on the ground for the young girl and said, "Sit here and eat on these berries while I go down here to see if there are more below."
Her mother spread out the young girl’s robe and the girl began eating the berries. Her mother got on the horse and reminded the young girl to stay where she was and said she would be back soon. Then she disappeared in the bushes. The young girl was not afraid. She ate berries and talked to herself about the trees. Soon she saw night was coming and her Mother had still not returned. She became frightened and began calling for her mother. She called and called but saw no sign of her. Then she became increasingly frightened and began crying, all the time calling and calling for her mother. She cried all night long but her mother still did not return. She was sure her Mother had left her, gone back home leaving the little girl alone in the high mountains.
Finally when she could not cry any longer, she got up and too her robe and walked not knowing where she was going. It was still night and very, very dark. She walked on and on until she got very tired and sleepy and lay down and went to sleep. When she woke up the sun was way p already, it was nice and warm. At first she thought she was sleeping with her mother at home. Then she remember she was high in the mountains and her mother was not there. She started to cry again.
When she stopped crying, she began to walk and eat the berries growing there on the mountain. She kept on until she got to a deep gulch fully covered with trees. While she sat there she thought of her home and her mother. She began to cry again. Then she barely heard a sound that she thought was human voices. She listened closely but heard nothing and thought it must be the cry of a bird or something. Then she heard the sound again, and as she listened she heard it again and again and knew it was the sound of humans laughing and talking loudly way down in the bottom of the gulch. She could not see them as it was covered all over with trees and bushes but she could tell they were coming toward her.
Just where she was sitting was on a ridge and below on the hillside was an open bald place. The sound came from that way and she was watching closely and was surprised with joy to see a woman with two little ones coming. She thought it was someone from her tribe. They were running and chasing each other. Laughing and shouting, they came pretty close. She saw the woman was a very handsome woman, well clothed all in buckskin and clean. One of the children was a boy and one was a girl. They were also well dressed, all in buckskin.
This woman said to the girl, "Poor girl, this is not the place for you especially to be alone. I am sure you are thirsty by this time. Come, we will bring you down to the stream to drink." Then she told her children, "Do not bother your little sister, she is thirsty and tired."
When they got to the stream, they all had a good drink. The little girl was the last to finish her drink and when she stood and looked, instead of seeing her little sister and brother and mother, there was sitting there a grizzly bear and two cubs. She was afraid. The bear spoke, "Do not be afraid, little child. I am your mother bear and here is your little brother and sister. We will not hurt you."
Then the Bear told her her: "Listen closely. I am going to give you medicine power by which you will be a great help to your people in the future. This time will come after you pass middle age. But do not try to do more than I am allowing you or granting you because, if you do, it will be nothing more than false and you will be responsible for sufferings and even death. One of my gifts is that you are going to be helpful to women especially those that are having hard times and suffering giving the birth of a child." She said this. Then the grizzly bear mother and her cubs took the young girl back to her people.