Why the Brown Bears Are Hostile Towards Men



Audio Credit: 

Fiona Sawden from Port Graham, Alaska

There was man and his wife living in Nunaq [in Orca Bay]. He liked to hunt and used to stay away for days and days. His name was Aktyingkuq. Then he fell sick after he returned from hunting and told his wife, “When I die, put my bidarka and all my hunting implements on top of my grave.” So when he died his wife buried him and placed all his things on top. She use to come every day and look at the grave, but one day when she came, everything was gone and the grave was open. Then she used to go down to the grave and cry.

One day she heard a little bird over her head singing:

  Ci’k ci’k,                                 Tyik tyik,

  Akcinkuq qilagam manidli’ni    Aktyingkuq behind the Qilagat Mountain

  Qalukcaktuq,                           is sleeping hard,

  Tutikcaktuq                             is sleeping with a woman

  Ci’k ci’k.                                 tyik tyik.

The old woman said, “If you are telling the truth, I wish you would fly towards where my husband is.” So the little bird flew towards Nuchek. The woman got ready and started to walk after the bird. When she got to the narrows, she took a rotten drift tree, made a canoe out of it and crossed to Nuchek. She walked over the mountains and went towards the village. When she got to Qilagat she looked down into the bay [Constantine Harbor] from the top and saw her husband’s bidarka among all kinds of game that he was hunting. Then she went down to the sand spit and saw the bark smoke houses and two women in there.

Aktyingkuq’s wife said to them, “I am hungry for some tyaratlqat [a kind of eatable seaweed]. I wish you would heat some water for it to cook in.” After that she said to the women, “Come on both of you. That is the way we eat.” The whole basketful of seaweed was boiling. She was jealous of them. They all stopped down to eat. She was sitting on one side of the basket and the two women on the other side. She took them by their necks and put their faces into the water and killed them that way, saying as she did so, “I wish that one of them will come up with a smiling face when she is dead, and the other one looking sad.” Then she took both women out of the smoke house. She made two spits to roast meat on and poked them through their stomachs and set them on the path with the smiling one in front and the sour-faced one behind. Then she hid behind a stump.

Aktyingkuq came ashore and thought he saw the two women coming down to meet him. He did not know his wife was there. She had a sewing bag made of a brown bear’s snout. She soaked it and made it soft while she was hiding. Then she put it on over her nose and said, “I will fix that fellow.”

Aktyingkuq said to the two women, “Do not worry. I have got you a white sea otter. You can butcher it. I have got a black one for the other.” He thought the two women had been fighting. Then his own wife turned into a bear. “I will fix you. You fooled me and pretended to die, but you had two wives here.”

“No, no!” he said, “I was going home tomorrow.” But the old woman started to chew up his bidarka, beginning with the bow, and afterwards she chewed up her husband and killed him.

The sun was shining. She took her hair down and spread it out, turning her back to the sun. Then she heard a voice, “We are coming, looking for you.” It was two bidarkas with four men. They took her far out to sea, she did not know where. There the four men said: “Jump overboard from the bidarka. We are going to do the same thing.” The four men were really fur seals. Then she put her nose on again and turned into a bear. The four fur seals left her after they had all jumped into the water.

The old woman was swimming, and when she looked up she saw land ahead of her. It was Shukluq [Montague Island]. She was still swimming, but she got very tired. Then she met some seaweed floating on the water. She kicked at it and spat on it, saying, “I wish that you may turn into land.” It became Qutquaq [Middleton Island]. There she rested and went on to Montague. That is why the brown bears on Montague are so wild.