Page:Journal of American Folklore vol. 12.djvu/447

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


The Celestial Bear. 99

tudes. As it is, we may perhaps consider significant the mention of the lost trail, where there is no contrast with stars which do not lose the trail. Nor is it less suggestive that mention is made of the bear's fat, which is also referred to in the Micmac legend. It is substituted for the autumn foliage of the northern version, a singular example of the combination of like objects with dissimilar explanations, as if one had jumbled together the elements of a faintly remembered story. The Point Barrow Esquimaux recognized the stars of the Bear with the hunters around him, 1 the Zunis call the group the Great White Bear of the Seven Stars ; 2 and they seem to have played a not incon- spicuous part in Pueblo mythology. Other names for these stars appear. The Blackfeet know them as seven boys, all of whom had been killed by their sister save the youngest (the star Dubbe), who killed her in turn. 3 Another Western tribe knew the stars of Ursa Minor as a bear, its head being composed of " the three stars in a triangle," and its back of seven other stars. 4 The Thlinkeet of the Pacific Coast seem also to have associated the Bear with the stars of Ursa Major. 5 One Micmac informs me that his tribe once thought there was another bear hidden under the sky near the pole, and that the neighboring stars were hunters circling around in a vain endeavor to locate its den. This statement finds some support in Le Clerq's assertion that the Micmac Indians of Gaspe knew the constellations of both the Great and Little Bear and so called them. This author seems to give us the earliest reference to these groups in America. He adds that the Gaspe Indians said " that the three guardians of the North Star are a canoe in which three savages have embarked to surprise this Bear. But unfortunately they have not yet been able to overtake the animal. 6 He makes no mention of the bird hunters, but such negative testimony means little. The worthy father paid scant attention to legends. He refers to only these two constellations, yet it is evident that the Micmacs named several other groups and related elaborate tales concerning them. Possibly in an older form of the legend the bird hunters were sup- posed to pursue the bear in canoes, though it seems unlikely that the Indians indulged in such mixture of attributes. Charlevoix wrongly supposed that the teachings of Lescarbot were responsible for the names Great and Little Bear. 7 Other early mention of them is

1 Dr. Franz Boas in the Amer. Antiq. vol. xviii. p. 121.

2 Mr. Frank H. dishing, statement to author.

8 R. N. Wilson in the Amer. Antiq. vol. xv. p. 200.

4 Rev. S. D. Peet, quoting Tanner in Amer. Antiq. vol. xvii. p. 123.

5 Dr. A. F. Chamberlain in the Amer. Antiq. vol. xvii. p. 70.

6 Pere Chretienne Le Clerq, Nouvelle Relation de la Gaspesie, Paris, 1691, pp. 152, 153.

7 Charlevoix, Travels in North America, p. 297.

�� �