The Spirit Bear And The Special One
It was a cold and dark night. Few sounds could be heard in the dark woods. Dancing Woman as she was called changed positions in the temporary shelter she had built for herself. There was just enough space for her to lie down, roll over and sit up, and it was warm without the need of a fire. She felt safe for the first time in many long months. But her journey was not over yet. She had a long way to walk to reach her village and she wondered would she be accepted by her people after being taken hostage by the white man for all these months. He had abused her in every way and now she was with child.
She put her hands on her belly and felt the child within her womb move. She could not reject her child, for it was part of her, even though the father was a cruel man, a white man, she could not do what might be expected, perhaps demanded of her, to abandon the child at birth. She felt hot tears sting her eyes and she began to sing and sway back and forth, her singing
a prayer to Great Spirit to help her and her unborn child; to protect them both. She had survived and escaped - they had both survived; now all she hoped for was that her people would accept them both - and she could return to the village of her birth. She fell asleep finally, a prayer on her lips, sung softly and with hope.
The sun shone through the makeshift shelter Dancing Woman had prepared.
She could feel its warmth and knew it was time to get moving again. She came out of the shelter and hurried to relieve herself. There was a small stream nearby and she drank hungrily scooping the cold water into her small and delicate hands. Hunger gnawed in her belly and she knew she needed food to keep her strong, to keep her unborn child strong and well.
I will have to find something to eat soon, she thought. She removed her knife and made a spear, hoping that perhaps she might find a rabbit or it might be necessary to chance going to the river to spear a fish, but without food, she would not be able to travel much longer before weakness overcame her.
The woods were quiet except for the sound of the birds and the barking of the squirrels as they scampered through the tops of the trees. She decided her best chance at food would be fish, so she began to walk toward the river, her senses at high alert to any sound. Quietly, without stepping on a twig or branch, she walked through the woods and before too long, the river was in front of her - ice covered in some spots, but it was not frozen over completely. Perhaps she may be lucky and find salmon swimming close to its banks.
Dancing Woman sat quietly at the bank, making not one sound, her eyes riveted to the waters to the sight of any movement - and suddenly there was. She quickly set her spear into the water and felt the weight at its end, success! She pulled out the spear, but it was not a salmon she had caught, but trout which was good to eat and she felt pride in her ability to get the food she needed so quickly.
Now to start a fire to cook it - for as hungry as she was, she hungered more for the fish to be cooked - to taste it with the juices that would flow from cooking it over a fire. She had been taught well and in no time she had a small fire going and she had cleaned the fish and was now turning it over and over to cook it well. Hungrily, she tore at its cooked meat, and as hot as it was, she chewed the delicious fish and ate it all in no time. Her belly was full and she felt strength returning and knew it was time to get a move on - she had a long way to go yet. But first she gave prayers of thanks for the meal and prayed for a safe journey to her village and prayed again for the child within her womb. Then she was off - walking quietly though the woods knowing the way back - she needed no guide, she had the strongest help she could ever hope for - an overwhelming desire to return home - to her people.
Dancing Woman walked all that day, rarely stopping except to get a drink of water now and then, or to relieve herself. The day was nearing its end and it would soon be dark, but she knew she was so close, she could not bear the thought of another night, buried in leaves and huddled in a makeshift shelter - she wanted home and her family, so she made the decision to keep walking - determined to arrive home that night.
She knew her way through the darkness - and the light of the moon helped her along the way. Then she heard its sound - a bear! It was close by yet she could not see where it was but she knew it was tracking her. Her heart began to beat wildly - she had come so far, she had escaped from that white man and his abuse - she was so close to home, but a bear? If he attacked how could she defend herself?
She stopped and took out her knife and held it close by her side, her fist tightened around it. If the bear attacked, she would fight it with her all her strength and try to stab it in the heart or brain. She had not come this far, to lose her life and that of her unborn child to a bear!
She continued to walk, quietly, the thumping of her heart seemed so loud in the quiet of the night, then suddenly, there was this rustling of bushes and leaves a loud noise and it stood before her on two legs, like a man, blocking her way!
This was a bear that was like no other. His thick coat of fur was illuminated in the moonlight - white - a Spirit Bear! Dancing Woman had heard the elders tell stories of the Spirit Bear but no one had ever seen him.
Moksgm'ol - and the silence of the night were broken by the loud call of the Raven.
Dancing Woman knew she could not kill this powerful and spiritual bear anymore than she could kill her unborn child. She knew her eyes looked upon that which is considered Sacred.
She dropped to her knees and lowered her head and knew whatever her fate, it was meant to be. She was startled by a voice and words she understood and she lifted her head to see the Moksgm'ol still standing on two legs before her.
"Woman who Dances, you have nothing to fear from me. I am Moksgm'ol, but you know that. I am here to protect you to guide you and to help you. I know you are returning to your village and in your belly you carry a boy child. He is part white - the color of me, and he is Indian but you will find that your people will not be pleased."
Tears clouded her vision, and began to flow down her cheeks, her heart sank, for she had wanted to return home so badly to her village and to her people and to have her child raised as she had been raised. Now that she knew the child would be a male child, he could be raised to be a mighty warrior, but Moksgm'ol had spoken- and the Spirit Bear did not lie.
"Woman who Dances" do not cry. I am here to protect and guide and help you. Your village is not far from this place. Go home woman. I want you to return your village and see your people, but it will be for the last time. I will be here when you return. So, stand up and walk Woman who Dances, your journey is over."
She stood and knew now her name had changed, perhaps as her people would change against her. She looked up to the spot where the Spirit Bear had stood - but he was gone. She had heard nothing of his departure but he was a Spirit Bear and she remembered all the stories she had been told.
She continued on her journey, her heart heavy with sadness that her people would not want her. She touched her belly and felt the boy child within kick. He felt strong and she knew that no matter what her people said or did, this boy child would be a mighty warrior. He was a special child.
The dark night skies began to lighten and the first morning birds began to sing their songs. As she approached her village, the first light of the new day had arrived, its colors of orange, pink and yellow glorious as the sun began to rise. She sang quietly to herself, prayers of thanks.
The village dogs began to bark and ran out toward her, their barking alerting the people that a stranger approached. She was suddenly surrounded by the men of the village who poked at her and one knocked her to the ground, demanding her to say who she was.
"I am Dancing Woman, daughter of Firewalks and Little Rabbit."
"You are a liar!" the man who knocked her to ground said. "Dancing Woman is dead stolen by a white man." "I am not dead! I escaped from him and have returned home to my village and my people - how dare you call me a liar!" She was angry at this warrior she did not know, who had treated her so roughly.
More of the villagers had come to see what the commotion was all about and there was the loud cry of a woman - a cry of tears and joy. "It is my daughter Dancing Woman! My prayers are answered - you have come back to me my child!" And Dancing Woman was helped to her feet and Little Rabbit embraced her daughter, holding her tight. Dancing Woman was overjoyed to be home again - to feel her Mother's arms around her. Suddenly her Mother stepped back and looked at Dancing Woman in an odd way and Dancing Woman knew - her Mother had felt the swell of her belly and knew she was with child.
"Come daughter. You must be tired and hungry. You need to rest." Little Rabbit said, as she held onto Dancing Woman's arm pulling her away from the crowd that had gathered.
"We shall have a feast!" someone shouted. More voices joined in - "yes, yes! We will feast for the return of Dancing Woman!"
"Come, we have much to do to prepare for the feast!" It was the familiar voice of Dancing Woman's elder Aunt, Strong Bow Woman. She was known as the only woman who could hunt with a bow as good as any warrior and had great strength with even the largest bow. She never missed her mark. Dancing Woman looked at her Aunt and smiled. She loved Strong Bow Woman very much and could not wait to spend some private time with her. Dancing Woman's Mother began to push her along, anxious to get to their lodge and to talk, while Dancing Woman ate a good meal.
The camp was alive with excitement. The feast had everyone involved in its preparation and Dancing Woman had still not seen her Father or sisters. She entered the lodge behind her Mother and it felt so good to be home again safe and with those she loved, she began to cry, unable to hold back the tears that she had held within her from the day the white man had taken her away.
"Sit my child." Her Mother directed. "I will get you something to eat and then we will go to the river so you can bathe and change."
"Mother where is Father?" Dancing Woman asked. "And where are my sisters?" Her Mother lowered her eyes, and was quiet for a long time. "Your Father has gone to the Spirit World, my child." Dancing Woman began to sob and then to wail - the pain of losing her Father was the worse pain she had ever felt. Even the white man's abuse of her was nothing in comparison to this pain. Her Mother put her arms around Dancing Woman and held her close - stroking her hair as she did to comfort her as a small child.
"Your Father was killed by whites who raided the village. The same whites who took you and your sisters away from us. They killed many people that day. But our Warriors killed them too and followed them many days, but they had to turn back when the whites headed for the soldiers' camp. There were just too many whites and not enough warriors to fight them. Even at that, some of our young warriors would not give up and died trying to save you and the women that were stolen from us. We believed that you were all dead, Dancing Woman. The white eyes will stop at nothing - they kill our old people, our young, our children and our women.
How is it daughter that you survived?"
Dancing Woman was so filled with grief from learning of all she loved who had been murdered by the whites, of the young warriors who gave their lives to save them all - she could not speak. She fell back on the skins beneath her and that was the last she remembered till she woke the next day.
She woke to hunger in her belly and a warm and familiar hand stroking her head. It was her Mother who smiled but it was a sad smile. "You are with child, Dancing Woman." It was a statement not a question. This is the child of that white man who took you from us is it not?"
"Yes Mother." Dancing Woman whispered.
"You know daughter, you cannot keep this child. You must get rid of it."
"Mother, I love you very much and with all my respect to you, I must disagree. I cannot hurt or abandon this child - a part of him is me."
"How do you know it is a boy child?" her Mother asked. "We know it is a half breed, with the blood of that white killer."
"Mother please. He is innocent and part of me and you and Father. That is the part that will grow not the part of his evil Father. I know he is a boy child because the Spirit Bear came to me, Mother, just before I made it to the village. He told me that I would not be accepted because of my child. That my people would turn against me. I do not want to believe that Mother - this is my home; you are my People and the People of my unborn child. How can we be turned away?"
"Because my child, no one here will accept the child of those killers who came here and took our women and murdered them and our men. Your sisters are dead I believe - although I will keep praying and have hope, that they too, will escape and return home again. But I suspect those whites will do to them, what they did to you, abuse and rape you and use you and then when they are tired of you, kill you. You were lucky to have escaped Dancing Woman."
"Mother I planned my escape - from the things I was taught as a child from Father and you. We were taught things that Fathers teach sons, because there are no sons - and it is those skills that helped me to escape. My sisters were taught the same way, Mother, so I will not give up hope. I will not give up hope that they too, will find their way home again."
Her Mother began to cry and then held Dancing Woman close to her heart. "You are the daughter of Firewalks." She said. "No one can ever deny that. He would be so proud of you. But your Father would tell you what I have said about this child, because it is true. The people will never accept this boychild; he would always be a reminder to them of the attack on our people and the lives that were lost."
"I understand that Mother. But I will not kill my child or abandon him to be eaten by animals. I will pray that my people will accept me and my son. Until they tell me I must do what you say, I will live here as is my right to do so."
Days passed. The Feast lasted 3 days and it was good for the village and the people after the loss of so many of their own. But it did not take long for people to notice that Dancing Woman was with child and the gossip and questions began and spread like wild fire through the village. There could never be secrets here.
Before too long the elders heard and a council was called to discuss what could be done with Dancing Woman and the child she carried, which all knew was the child of one of the whites who had come to destroy them. She could not remain in the village with her people with a child of such an evil man. His blood was part of the child and he would never be accepted by the people as one of their own.
The council spent a long time on this difficult decision. They loved Dancing Woman and had great respect for her Father, Firewalks and her Mother, Little Rabbit. They honored the spirit of a warrior who died to save his people and while they did not want to dishonor his spirit, they knew they could not permit Dancing Woman to remain in the village with this child. They had no choice, but to call her before them and give her a choice: to have the infant suffocated at birth or to leave it in the woods to be taken by the animals and the elements.
The council was called together one more time, with Dancing Woman present and the choices given to her.
Dancing Woman stood before them - many she loved - many of her family sat on this council that now forced her to make a decision she would never make, to destroy or abandon the life within her.
"You are my people and I am part of you. This is my home - daughter of Fire Walks and Little Rabbit. Through no fault of my own, I was taken from you. Through no fault of my own I was raped by the white man who took me, who killed my people, who perhaps shot the weapon that killed my own Father who I loved very, very much. This same group of whites stole my sisters and no one knows their fate. I pray every day that my sisters can find freedom and escape as I did."
"The child within me is part of me, part of Fire Walks and Little Rabbit. He is a part of this village and of my people, I cannot destroy him. I know he is a boy child. I knew that you would turn against me and demand I kill my unborn child even before I returned to the camp. I knew all this, because as I arrived here, and rested a bit in the woods, the Great Spirit Bear came to me. He stood before me on legs like a man. He spoke to me and I understood what he told me."
"He told me the child within my womb is a boy child and will be a mighty warrior. He told me you would reject me and my child and that I would have to leave this village and my People because I could never do what you ask."
"I have prayed every day that this would not happen. But the Spirit Bear was right. It has come to this day. And as much as it hurts my heart to the breaking point - to leave my Mother and my family and my People, this is what I will do. For you have given me no choice. I will pack my belongings and I hope you will allow me some food and water to take with me on my journey and I will leave before the sun rises tomorrow."
There was a deafening silence. Then an elder spoke - all loved him, he was called Gentle Bear.
"You saw the white Spirit Bear woman? Moksgm'ol?"
"Yes I did and we talked together as well." Dancing Woman said.
"Few if any, have ever seen Moksgm'ol." Gentle Bear said. "I do not know of any man or woman who has talked with Moksgm'ol. I suggest that the Council reconsider its position on this. The Moksgm'ol is power and very spiritual and sacred and for Moksgm'ol to have talked with Dancing Woman about this very thing, means something important to us as a people and village. This child must be very special for Moksgm'ol to speak this way."
"The Spirit Bear told me that my boy child will be a mighty warrior." Dancing Woman said. Doesn't this council think that means something special for us as a people? Or do you still wish that I leave?"
"Our council has met and discussed this for a long time, Dancing Woman. It was not an easy decision. The meeting you claim to have had with the Spirit Bear is of significance. But we cannot permit this child - the son of a white killer to be a part of this village or our people. What guarantee do we have that he will not grow into a mighty warrior that will turn on us again? That he will not finish what his Father set off to do? Kill us?"
"There is no guarantee. Just the words of the Sacred White Spirit Bear. I believe him. So I will take my leave in the morning."
Dancing Woman left the council and returned to her Mother's lodge to prepare for her journey. Where it would take her, she had no idea, but she had every faith that the Moksgm'ol would be there waiting for her.
Gentle Bear stood up and looked at the council members with strong eyes. "I think we have made a serious mistake this day. We have turned out a woman who has met and talked with the Moksgm'ol. What he told her came true. What he said of her unborn son, will come true as well. I am saddened this day and sorry to say that I believe that our decision will come back to us. We have doubted the Moksgm'ol - and have dishonored the Spirit Bear. Where is our faith?" and with that he left the council.
Three days later, Gentle Bear was found dead in his lodge. He had died in his sleep - but it was a peaceful death the villagers believed, for he had a smile on his face and in his hand, he clutched the claw of the Moksgm'ol - the White Spirit Bear.
Dancing Woman returned to the area where she had seen the Spirit Bear. She knew he would return to her. So, she made a temporary shelter and waited. Six days passed and he had not returned. On the seventh day, there was the sound of many horses and the shouts of men - white men. Dancing Woman rushed to hide within her temporary shelter, but a white man passed her on his horse, gun in hand. She knew he had seen her; he was very close as he rode by. But it was as if she were invisible. Many more horses and white riders passed her and not one stopped.
There was no time for her to return to the village to warn her people. She was nearing the time of the birth of her child and she could not run with her huge belly. She would never be able to get there before these men on horseback. She crawled into her temporary shelter and began to pray as she heard the sound of gunfire over and over again. She could hear the screams of the women - of her people and she thought of her Mother and of Aunts, of Gentle Bear and the friends she had grown up with. The shooting seemed to go on forever, but it suddenly became quiet and all that was left was the scent of smoke - from what seemed to be many fires and she knew that the white men had killed her people and burned the village she knew as her home.
She sobbed as she screamed why? why? knowing there was no one left - she had no one - there was only her and her unborn child - and then the first strong pain of childbirth hit her and she grabbed her belly and bent forward.
"Why now? Why now?" she asked aloud. "Can I do this? I don't think I can do this!" she shouted aloud and then blackness over came her.
She woke up as the morning sun began to rise, its warm glow illuminating the place she found herself. The coolness of the cave felt so good. She felt something warm and small at her side and as she looked over, she began to cry, tears of joy and overwhelming love. She had given birth - to a beautiful boy child. She checked him over, from head to toe and then began to kiss his beautiful face and to caress his little arms and held him to her breast as he hungrily sought out her nipple to drink her warm milk. She had never felt such joy or happiness in her entire life. The contentment she felt knowing that wherever she was, she and her infant son were safe and wanted.
The baby fed at her breast a long time and she smiled - he was strong and healthy and so hungry! A good sign - he would be strong, a mighty warrior just as the Moksgm'ol had told her.
Finally, his beautiful eyes closed and he slept soundly - content and happy. She stood up and walked toward the entrance to the cave. She could hear the sound of the ocean's surf - and as she stepped outside in the morning light, there he was, the Moksgm'ol - the White Spirit Bear. She smiled at him and felt no fear - she felt oddly enough, truly at home, even more so than she had ever felt in the village, the place where she grew up and where her people lived. Or did they live still? She remembered the sounds and what she saw before she blacked out.
"Woman Who Dances" do not be sad. The Spirit Bear spoke to her and reached out with what was no longer the paw of a bear, but the strong hand of a man. She blinked her eyes in disbelief and when she opened them again, there stood a man, strong and tall. A mighty warrior.
"This is your home now Woman Who Dances. We are your people. Never again will you live in fear of white men and guns and death. Nor will your son, who will grow into a good man, a strong man and a mighty warrior respected by all. For he will be the protector of this place and all that lives here." He reached for her hand and she took his and they walked together toward the cliffs ahead - and down below the mighty ocean and its surf pounded against the rocks - it's sound a roar - like the roar of a bear.
"Here you are safe, my wife to be. We were meant to be together and to raise our son here. I will honor you always and take care of you. Never will I hurt you. I love you Woman Who Dances and I love our boy child, who shall be known as Bear Child from this day onward."
"Bear Child." She whispered and smiled. She looked at the man who would be her husband and felt love for him. She knew that all this was meant to be and that everything he said was true - she was truly home and with her People.
"It is a good name, my husband to be." She said. "Bear Child."
"Yes, it is a good name. He will grow and his name will be known near and far as a mighty and good warrior. He will protect this land and all the life that dwells upon it. No harm will come to any person or animal for Bear Child will protect all life here forever."
There was no need for more words. They stood together on the cliff and watched the sun rise over the ocean.
To this day, the child, known as Bear Child, watches over the lands that is known as British Columbia. A mighty warrior with a kind and good heart, he is a protector and guardian of all life here, just as the Spirit Bear said that day he stood with Bear Child's Mother, known from that day onward, as Woman who Dances. They all still live in that secret cave high above the ocean. Sometimes laughter can be heard from those who visit this land - echoing through the canyons and through the forest.
The Moksgm'ol is there - it is home to the Moksgm'ol - home to Woman Who Dances and a Mighty Warrior called Bear Child. The White Spirit Bear guards the land and protects his people. The Moksgm'ol will always be there.
Jeanne Svhyeyi Aga Chadwick
August 10, 2003
On the Internet:
Return to Table of Contents