A long time ago there was a Mohawk village of bark
houses along the Oswego River. One day Mohawk hunters discovered the
tracks of a Giant Bear. After that, they saw the tracks many times.
Sometimes, the tracks would circle the Mohawk village. The animals
began to disappear from the forests, and the Mohawks knew that the
Giant Bear was killing and carrying off all the animals.
Because of the scarcity of food, famine came to the Mohawks. The meat
racks were empty. The people were hungry. Starvation tempted them. One
of the chiefs said, "We must kill this Giant Bear who is causing all
our trouble." At once a party of warriors set out in search of the
bear. They soon came across his tracks in the snow. They followed the
bear tracks for many days. They finally came upon the huge beast. At
once the air was filled with the arrows of the warriors. To the
surprise and dismay of the Mohawks, the arrows failed to pierce the
thick hide of the bear. Many broken arrows fell from his tough skin.
At last the angry bear turned and charged the hunters who fled but
were soon overtaken. Most of them were killed. Only two hunters
escaped and they returned to the village to tell the sad tale. The two
hunters told the council of the Great Bear. They told what happened to
the war party.
Party after party of warriors set out to destroy the Great Bear but
they always failed. There were many battles fought between the bear
and the warriors. Many warriors were slain.
As time went on, more and more deer vanished from the forest. The
smoking racks were empty. The people became very thin because of the
lack of food. Starvation caused many to become sick. The people were
filled with fear and their hungry bodies crept close to the fire at
night. They feared the Great Bear, whose giant tracks circled their
town each night. They feared to leave their village because they could
hear, coming from the darkness of the forest, the loud cough of the
One night three brothers each had a strange dream. On three successive
nights, they had the same vision. They dreamed they tracked and killed
the Great Bear. They said, "The dream must be true."
So, getting their weapons and scanty supply of food, they set out
after the bear. In a little while, they came upon the tracks of the
great beast. Quickly, they followed the trail, their arrows ready.
For many moons they followed the tracks of the bear across the Earth.
The tracks led them to the end of the world. Looking ahead, they saw
the giant beast leap from the earth into the heavens. The three
hunters soon came to the jumping-off place. Without hesitation, the
three of them followed the bear into the sky. There in the skis, you
can see them chasing the bear during the long winter nights.
In the fall of the year, when the bear gets ready to sleep for the
winter, the three hunters get near enough to shoot their arrows into
his body. His dripping blood caused by the wounds from the arrows turn
the autumn leaves red and yellow. But he always manages to escape from
the hunters. For a time, after being wounded, he is invisible. He
When the Iroquois see the Great Dipper in the sky, they say, "See, the
three hunters are still chasing the Great Bear!"