In the beginning of time, people lived in harmony with the land.  They lived in harmony with their brothers and sisters, the plants, trees, animals insects, snakes, the fish and the birds.  The people realized that the plants and animals were of spirit, and were placed here on Mother Earth to help them. The people were grateful for the help of the animals, the plants the trees and for that they wanted to honour them. One day they heard a beautiful song from a bird, and they became aware how this tiny creature made them feel. They wanted to sing in return, to make the spirit of the animals feel as they did when they heard the songs of the birds. And so they asked for songs from the spirits to sing to their brothers and sisters, the animals, plants, fish. Songs came to the people: songs to be sung to the spirit of the eagle, the spirit of the tree, the spirit of the water - songs for all of their relations.

One day Muin was in the forest and he heard one of these songs being sung by the people. The song was being sung in his honour, and their voices were carried by the wind into the forest. When Muin heard this beautiful song he felt honoured and respected. He went to the edge of a clearing in the forest, and saw that the people were in ceremony. As he watched and listened, he saw the people making offerings to his spirit, and he heard the kind words that the people spoke of him. They referred to him as Brother. Then he heard the people ask him for medicines to help them.

At that moment, Muin realized that he must make a journey for the people and bring back medicines for them. All summer long he ate and ate, preparing for his task. Finally when Fall came, he knew it was time. He sought out a lodge where his physical form would be safe while his spirit travelled. As he approached his lodge he looked back on the world, as he knew he would be gone for several moons. Finally, with the words “All My Relations,” he entered his lodge.

And so the spirit of Muin began its quest into the spirit world. As he journeyed, he collected the medicines which the people had asked for.  He sat in council with the spirits of the Plant people and requested from them the medicines for the people.  The plants agreed to give their medicines, as long as Muin would cultivate and fertilize the land for them, so that they would continue to come back year after year. Muin agreed to do this.

Finally, after many moons, Muin’s journey was coming to an end. He wanted to let the people know that he would soon be returning, so his spirit found a woman of the Bear Clan, who was praying in the sweat lodge. Muin came to that woman and spoke to her: “From this day forward, you will be known as Muiniskw, the Bear Woman. I have a request for you.  I am soon returning to my physical form, as I have completed my spirit journey. Would you be so kind as to prepare a Feast for me, as I am weak.”

The woman knew that when a spirit requested something from a human it was to be done. Muiniskw listened to Muin’s request as to how the Feast would be prepared and what ceremonies would be involved, then she took the request to the people. She told them of her vision in the lodge, and shared with the people the details of Muin’s request.  The people were happy and immediately began preparations for the Feast.  Muiniskw told of the berries which Muin asked for.  She said that Muin wanted the berries which he feasted on throughout the year, and he wanted to honour the spirit of the plants which provided him this food, as they also provided the food for the people.

And so it was. People brought berries which were dried and stored over the winter. Strawberries, which were the first berry in the Spring, blueberries, fruit of Summer, blackberries from the Fall, and Cranberries gathered in early winter. Then, the men went out to their weirs and gathered fish to be included in the Feast.

Four days after the Bear Spirit spoke to Muiniskw the appointed day for the Feast for the Bear arrived. The berries and the fish were all prepared by Muiniskw, and more food was prepared by the women. As the people sit in a Sacred Circle, the ceremony began with the lighting of the Sacred Pipe, and as the pipe was shared with the people a story was told.  The story told of why  we must always honour the Bear Spirit. In the Fall of the year we honour him for his long fast, and the journey he is about to make into the spirit world for medicines for the people. In the Spring we honour the Bear for the medicines he brings back from his long journey.  In both ceremonies a woman of the Bear Clan prepares the Feast for the Bear, and in both ceremonies a song is sung to honour Muin.

And so it continues to this day. Muin tills and fertilizes the ground to help plants grow, and during the long cold winter he journeys to the spirit realm to seek medicines for the people. And each year, in the Fall and the Spring, native people gather together for a feast in his honour.


Story as given to Jean Augustine-McIsaac
Image: "Bear Woman", by Jordan Thompson


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Updated: 25 Mar 2016 Print Page