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Terry Cross

Lesson 5 – The Story of Grizzly Bear and Black Bear

Goal: Listen to the Story of Grizzly Bear and Black Bear and find understanding in healing domestic violence.

Activity: Terry Cross shares the story of Grizzly Bear and Black Bear that helps heal from domestic violence.

“Well, we all have times in our life when we, when rage can overcome the side of us that is about love and nurturing and innocence, so every character in the story is some aspect of a self, it’s not about different characters, it’s about all of these things that are a part of us. So what their mother told them is if they stayed on the spiritual path, and of course grandfather is this place of peace, this place of- we would call it, in the Iroquois tribe we would call it Good Mind, the Creator Place, that if you follow your teachings of generosity and of gratitude, that this path to peace is maintaining the focus of all of these things and asking for help in for maintaining these teachings of humility and generosity.” Terry Cross

Grizzly bear and black bear as a couple and they each had two cubs, and Grizzly Bear was frequently angry and it was what would be described today as a domestic violence situation, and Black Bear would get the worst of it. Grizzly bear was known as having a really difficult temper.

Mother Black Bear’s Instructions

One day Black Bear had a dream and she woke up and she knew that grizzly bear was going to kill her at some point and she told her cubs that this was going to happen. She gave them some gifts and she told them, “When this happens, you are to go to your grandfather’s house and along the way you are going to meet people who will help you. And our way is to make sure you gift people that help you. Always show your gratitude, and that you stay focused, stay on your path no matter what distractions there might be. And go to your grandfather; you will have to journey across the hills and down to the river, and when you cross the river, go up the river and to the place where there is a slide of scree, and up the path on the side of the mountain and you will find your grandfather in the side of the mountain in a cave there. And you will be safe there. As soon as you discover that I am killed, you must promise me that you will do this.  You must lay in wait and kill the Grizzly Bear’s cubs.” “But they are our brothers and sisters, why would we do this?”  “You must, and you must, and don’t give yourself time to think about it. And then immediately go to your grandfather, because Grizzly bear will kill you too.”

Mother Black Bear’s Gifts

And she gave them arrows and a spear and she gave them some good weather. Wrapped them up and put them away in a sacred kind of way so they would have them.  And for a long time they just thought their mother was just out of it and this wasn’t really going to happen, she was just talking, she pays too much attention to these dreams; and she had told them that they would know that this had happened because the sky would turn red. And they would wake up and the sky would be bright red and they should then do exactly what she asked them to do.

Mother Black Bear is Killed

Sure enough they woke one morning and the sky was bright red and they knew that their mother had been killed. And they argued with each other: “Well, mother said we need to kill the grizzly bear cubs, can we really do that?” They struggled and they said, “We have follow what our mother told us and go find grandfather, we have to help the people along the way,” so they laid in wait and they killed the grizzly bear cubs. They headed down the trail as they knew it as fast as they could go and they got really tired and they stopped under a crab apple tree, and they were crying because of the loss of their mother and what they had done, and they didn’t quite know if they were going in the right direction, and the crabapple tree heard them and the crabapple tree said, “No, you’re on the right path, your grandfather lives over the hill, over the the river, down by the river, across the river, up the river, past the scree,” and they said “Thank you crabapple tree, thank you so much. Here is one of the arrows our mother gave to us, for you.”

The Bear Cubs Encounter a Log

So they headed on own the trail, they came to a place where again they were tired and there was a trail that branched off in each direction, and there was a log that lay jutting out into the trail as logs sometimes do;  they kind of go around it and they sat down by that log, because they were tired, they again were wondering, “The path divides,  are we on the right path, because the path divides?” and the log said, “No, you’re on the right path.” They thanked the log, they gave the log another of those arrows, they got to the top of this hill above where they were going to go down to the river and they were sitting and crying and they heard something, they heard themselves crying actually, and didn’t know what it was and they said, “Who’s there?” and the voice said, “I’m your echo.” and they said, “Echo, are we on the right track?” and the echo said, “Yes, you’re on the right track. You just need to go follow your path and find your grandfather and down by the river you will find an old man who will help you.” They gave Echo that good weather their mother gave them.

The Bear Cubs Meet the Stork

They went down the path, they went to cross the river, and there was Mr. Stork, a very tall skinny man standing by the river, and they ran up to him and said, “Our mother said that people would help us if we asked for help in a good way, could you please help us figure out how to get across the river? Because we need to get to our grandfather’s house right away, something terrible has happened.” The stork said, “Well, of course, your grandfather lives across the river up past the place with the scree and in a cave on the side of the mountain and I will just put my leg out across the river and you can crawl across my leg.” And so stork reaches his leg across the river and puts his leg on the other side, and he said, “Mind you don’t step on my knee cap as you go across.” And they said, “Oh thank you Stork, and for your trouble here is a spear that our mother gave us. “ And to this day, that is why the stork fishes with his long bill. That’s his spear that was given to him by the black bear cubs.

The Bear Cubs Arrive at Grandfather’s Cave

They crawled across his leg to the other side of the river, being very careful not to step on his kneecap and they made it across. They ran as fast as they could, they finally found their way up to their grandfather’s cave, he met them at the door, and they said, “Grandfather, grandfather, Grizzly Bear is probably right behind us, she’s going to kill us all, close the doors !“ and the cave had big stone doors. Grandfather said, “No, you’re safe here.”  “But ,” they said,  “But grandfather she’ll be in rage! She’ll come here, she’ll kill us all. We killed her cubs, she killed our mother! ” He said, “Come in, you’re safe here. No evil can enter this place.  She will come, but no evil can enter here.”  So they went in, and grandfather comforted them. They found comfort there.

Grizzly Bear Pursues the Cubs

Well of course, grizzly bear did discover her dead cubs. She put the loudest roar that you can imagine in anguish and anger and she immediately took off on the trail to try to catch these black bear cubs. She’s headed down the trail, and she goes by the crabapple tree, she stops to sniff, and pretty soon she is all tangled up in the crabapple tree, in the limbs, they’re all around her, she didn’t really understand how she could be tied up in these branches when she was trying to sniff out these cubs. And she just rears herself free, she Heads down the trail as fast as she can go, and she sees this log laying across most of the trail and that’s not going to slow her down so she just takes a flying leap to jump over and when she is just over the top of it, and bam the log hits her right in the chin, and she’s down and she rolls, she’s staggering to get up and she sees a trail in this direction, and a trail in that direction, she’s disoriented, she runs up the trail the wrong way. She gets up there and discovers it was the wrong way.

Grizzly Bear Encounters Echo

She turns around and comes back, she is headed following the path that the cubs went, she gets to the place where cubs ran into the echo, she hears them crying, she thinks, “Well, I have them now.” She sneaks up to that place where she hears them crying because they’re behind a boulder, jumps over the rock ,she thinks she’s coming down right on them, and there’s no one there, and pretty soon she hears them over here behind some bushes crying, she crawls up real quiet, she jumps over the bushes and there she is again, no cubs. And she realizes echo has fooled her. She lets out a large roar that echoes back to her, she heads down the trail to the river.

Grizzly Bear Encounters Stork

She comes to this tall tall old man, and she says, “Get me across the river, tell me how to get across the river.” “Well, some people go up the river and some people go down the river.” She runs down the river and she doesn’t find a place to cross.  She runs back by him, runs up the river, she can’t find a place to cross, she comes back to where he is, and she says, “I didn’t see any way to cross the river, what did you send me on a wild goose chase for?” And he says, “Well, you didn’t ask me how to get across the river,” and she says, “Well, how do I get across the river?” “Well I can help you get across the river.” “Well, do it then!”  He says, “Well, most people go across my leg.” So he stretches out his leg, and he puts his leg across the other side, and he says, “Only one thing, you have to make sure, when you get out into the middle of my leg, you have to step on my kneecap.” She says, “All right.” When she gets to the middle of his leg, she very carefully steps on his kneecap, and Pshhh. She goes into the river and the current of the river brings her back to the same side that she was on, she shakes herself off, and he says, “You must have missed my kneecap.” So she gets out there, and she steps on his kneecap again, and Pshhh she goes into the water.  She’s carried right back to the same side. She comes back and this time she knows that she has been had, he puts out his leg, she goes out across his leg, and she jumps across his knee cap. She makes it to the other side. She runs up past the place where the scree is she goes up the side of the mountain and there she is, she’s standing in front of the cave where the cubs have taken refuge with their grandfather.

Grandfather welcomes Grizzly Bear

And their grandfather comes to the door and says, “Grizzly bear, Welcome! Welcome to my home!” And she is just seething, just rageful. And he says, “Everyone is welcome in my home but no evil can enter here, so you must take what has happened to you and you must take it out of your heart before you walk across this thresh hold, but come in.” She says to herself, ‘I can get it together, I can calm down, and then when I get through these doors I am going to tear them all to shreds.’   So, she gathers herself together, she takes some deep breaths; she tries to settle down, deep clear rumbling in her throat where she’s holding that rage and anger. She steps across the threshold and the great stone doors slam shut, severing her head from her body. Her head lays there by the threshold. The doors open and Grandfather picks up her head. “I told you, no evil can enter here.”  He takes her head and throws it down the side of the mountain. Her head rolls down and is washed away by the river. To this day grizzly bears and black bears don’t get mix.  That’s the basis of that.

This Northwest Coastal story is a very powerful story where Grizzly Bear and Black Bear represent different types of people with different behaviors.  Their children, the cubs, represent the offspring of these types of people and behaviors.  Here are some questions to think about:

  1. 1. Who is Grizzly Bear?  What type of behavior did Grizzly Bear have, especially towards Black Bear?

What did Grizzly Bear do to Black Bear?

  1. 2. Who is Black Bear?  She had a dream and from this dream she planned her life.  What allowed her to believe in this dream?  How did she understand to give her cubs the arrows?
  1. 3. What did the grizzly bear cubs represent? Terry Cross suggests that they represent shame and guilt.   Why would Black Bear instruct her cubs would have to kill the grizzly bear cubs?
  1. 4. Who are the black bear cubs?  Terry Cross suggests that they represent trust and love and all of those aspects of the true self and she is saying to them, “You must survive, and to survive you’ve got to do away with the shame and guilt and all of those things associated with an event and follow your teachings and find Grandfather.”  Do you agree with this?
  1. 5. What is the relationship with the Crab Apple Tree for the Cubs?  What is the relationship with the Crab Apple Tree for the Grizzly Mother?
  1. 6. What is the relationship with Echo for the Cubs?  What is the relationship with Echo for the Grizzly mother?
  1. 7. What is the relationship with Stork for the Cubs? What is the relationship with Stork for the Grizzly mother?
  1. 8. How did the story end?  Why did it end this way?