Arikara Bear Lodge Story

My friend Preston needed a story for his class and asked me to tell him one. So I told him this story if the Bear Lodge or what some people call Devils Tower. 

Photo by Brandie Macdonald

The Arikara covered a lot of territory. They were known for their cunning, strategic military skills, expert tracking skills and fierce economic control over the main water ways through out the great plains.
 This story is how in one hunting village, a long, long time ago fell, and how the survivors live amongst the stars.

There was once a hunting camp set up along the river banks, in the land that is now called Wyoming. 

A young girl was left home with her older sister while her brothers went out in search of deer.

The camp kids started to play a game and pretended to be bears, tormenting one another. The older girls sister, knowing that the spirit of the bear shouldn’t be disrespected, warned the kids to stop “Stop, something bad will happen” she cried, but the kids kept on playing.  

The older sister walked her younger sister down to a cave near the river and told her “stay here, something bad is going to happen.” Sure that the sister stood there, the older sister turned into a bear, and ran towards the camp. “I told you something bad will happen! I am so powerful, you disrespected me, no one can destroy me” the bear roared. The bear then ate up all the kids in the village and tore down the camps. The Bear came back to the cave and told the younger sister, that she will keep her alive, as long as she keeps camp with her. Terrified, the younger sister agreed. 

A few days had passed and the younger sister went berry picking. While in the bushes, she came across her seven brothers who had gone hunting days ago. She was so happy to see her brothers she cried and told them that the older sister turned into a bear and had taken her captive. She was only alive because she agreed to keep camp for the bear.

The brothers didn’t like to see their sister cry or be captive. They thought, there must be a way to destroy the bear. The younger sister cried that she said the bear cannot be destroyed. The brothers asked the young sister to find out what the bear’s weaknesses are, that way they can at least weaken her if not kill her.

With a full basket of berries the young sister goes back to the bear camp. She talks to the bear “is there anything else you need? Surely there is something that you need to help keep up your strength?” she asked. The bear, said “there is nothing that can strengthen me, for I am already strong!” The young sister said “I fear that you wouldn’t be able to protect me if harm should come.” The bear responded “nothing can come to harm you as long as I am here! The only thing that can defeat me is if someone were to cut off my small toes, but even if one drop, ONE DROP of blood were to escape, I would come back! So don’t fear such thing!” roared the bear.

The young sister ran back to her brothers and said that the bear could be destroyed if her small toes were cut off. The brothers made a plan to attack the bear the next day. As the bear was out they made a trap for her by the cave door. As the bear came back to the cave they trapped her, cut off her small toes and set her on fire so no blood was to escape.

But a tiny drop of blood did escape and as the ashes were nearly out, the bear came back! She was angry and ran towards the young sister and her seven brothers. Run yelled the brothers and they ran west. As they ran, the bear chased them. One of the brothers grabbed a stone and prayed to the stone, asking for help from the bear.

As the brother prayed the stone dropped to the ground and grew, and grew fast straight up to the sky. The bear clawed around and around the growing stone to get to the young sister and her seven brothers, but they were too high. The bear roared at them “you are safe for now!” By the time the bear retreated the young sister and her seven brothers had jumped towards the sky and were adopted into the stars.

Today you can still see the stone that rose up to protect the young sister and her seven brothers, it is the Bears lodge, or as some people call it today, Devils Tower. The bear is to still be respected as she still lives among those rocks, waiting for the day for the young sister and seven brothers to come down. If you look into the night sky, especially during the time of year we hunt, you can see the constellation of the young sister and her seven brothers directly above that space of the bears lodge.

Photo by Brandie Macdonald