The Sleeping Bear
The Sleeping Bear
Life in the modern world is like a pine forest, an oakless wilderness, where
all that below its shelter is void of life. Sure, the pines stretch to the
sun and gain the necessary rays of life to exist, but all that lies beneath
them are paralyzed by a powerful sap, one that quenches life rather than
giving it. For the brief moments that we are allowed to leave the pines,
we discover a beautiful valley just beyond the forest's edge. The valley
is divided by a stream, which descends from the eastern mountains bringing
the life form of water from the Father, the Creator and Great Spirit. There
Selu, grandmother corn, lives in prosperity. You see, water gives life to
all, as did the Creator. Mother Earth guides the pathways of life for those
who are willing to listen to her. As she cradles this life form, she directs
the spirit of harmony into our hearts and nourishes our being. Regardless
of what the Creator gives us, without Mother Earth's guidance, we all fall
When entering this valley of life, one chooses to return to the shelter
of pines, or cross over into the large stands of beech, junipers, maples,
and oaks on the other side. The correct path appears hidden, yet it is always
there for those who seek it. This is because we are accustomed to the pine
forest, where nothing stands in our paths, but another pine, another brief
shelter. On the contrary, the distant valley offers a new life, one in which
Selu takes us by the hand and promises to enrich our very being. The spirit
of corn can not exist among the pines, so we must ask Selu for guidance
across the valley. There is her home, and her abundance guarantees our existence.
Without her, we would forever remain lost and unguided, a pathless life.
As she directs our paths across the intersecting stream of life, we enter
the land of the oak, the forest of life. This distant forest is home to
all that is good, and there harmony exists, and the animals sing the songs
of life in abundance.
The stream we are crossing flows from East to West. To the East, the water
flows from the mountains, nearest the heart of the Great Spirit. To the
West, the stream descends through the valley to a distant village, where
most of humanity chooses to live. There most choose to live on the side
of the pines, others on the side of the oaks, and still others attempt to
live among both. Yet, there is no use there, for the farther downstream
one travels, the weaker the life force. We must follow the path of the stream
back to its origin, where Selu and Kanati (Lucky Hunter) live in privacy.
They do not choose this lonely world of solitude, rather we choose to live
away from them. The journey to their home is certainly long and confusing;
yet once there, a message of truth will lead us across the valley into the
land of the oaks. There we cross over and await still more guidance, hoping
to remain forever in peace. But, the pines cry out for our return, what
must we do? There we find Awanita (Young Deer), who is gentle to our hearts
and assures us we can travel this journey.
As Awanita explains our journey, we must resist the temptation to return
across the valley. Though the pines cry loudly, Awanita's message is strong,
and taking hold of it will ensure a straight and uninterrupted path, a walk
through the oaks. We cannot discover where we are going, as each day, she
gives us another day's journey. We must wonder, where will she take us?
The path surely leads to somewhere. "Stop," she says! "Do
not rush the grandmothers and grandfathers, for you must follow rather than
lead. This path is ancient, and no one living among the pines understands
this simple path to truth. It has existed since the beginning of time, and
is cradled by Selu and Kanati. When you feel impatient and overburdened,
you must build a fire and cook the rations provided by Selu. Let the smoke
rise to the four directions and fill your lungs with purity. Offer a portion
to Mother Earth, for she must eat also. Then sleep, just sleep until the
sunrise awakens you. Then you may enter the next day's journey. The journey
you have been assigned to will take seven days to complete, and many await
to help you find the truth." Soon, the next morning came, and Awanita,
still standing alert by my side, pointed to the eastern path. She said,
"Arise, you must not tarry, for your destiny awaits you!"
By now we were deep in the oak forest, and Awanita patiently guided me through
the path. Awanita promised she would always be there to guide me. Yet, she
also told me that if she was not visible, I was to seek her within my own
heart. There she would always be. She assured me that I was ready to enter
my journey, and then told me: "Lift your eyes to Aganstata, turn your
weary head to the East, and never look back. I will always be ahead of you,
and my guidance will not fail you. Before you go, I must give you one more
message of truth." She said, "When you are tired of climbing the
rocky trails that lie ahead of you, you will occasionally see the pines
across the valley. They lie on flat land, and appear much easier to travel
upon. Resist the temptation, and never leave the oaks until your journey
is complete." She then reached in a pouch that hung from her neck,
and handed me seven days rations. She said, "Here. Selu has provided
you with this food so you will not hunger. Do not take over seven days on
your journey; you must stay true to your path. At the end of seven days,
you must find your destination, Good Luck and be off, Yanusdi."
As Awanita vanished into the thin air of the foothills, I looked forward
to the steep trails that were ahead of me. I knew this journey, for since
a child, I had dreamed of the Spirit of the Bear, who resided among the
oaks. I called him Yonequa (Big Bear), for when he stood, his head rose
above the towering trees. He was a great and mighty spirit, and he demanded
the respect of all who approached him. That was why the village was located
so far from the forest. The village people feared Yonequa. Instead of drinking
from the pure water as it broke from Mother Earth in the mountains, they
chose to take from the stagnant pools downstream. This sacrifice they made
because they feared him. I knew soon Yonegua would appear above the distant
trees to guide my path, but I had never spent seven days alone in the forest.
How could I survive, alone and in fear. Then, I remembered what Awanita
had told me. She said she would always be ahead of me. This comforted me,
so I built a fire and slept. The first day of my journey had ended.
As the sunrise broke the eastern sky, I realized I must once again take
to the path. First, I took a portion from the rations that Selu gave me,
and then I left. Suddenly, I realized that Awanita had filled my heart with
her spirit, and that Selu was with me also. Awanita knew Selu well, and
together they guided me up the rough trails. Occasionally I could see the
pines across the valley below, and they called for my return. I wanted to,
for I longed to see those who I left behind. Resisting this temptation,
I returned to my path hoping the pine people would leave me alone. Soon
I had travelled seven hours, and night was falling quickly. As dark settled
over the forest, I took shelter in a cave which was occupied by three bears.
As I slept they gave me strong medicine, preparing me for my final destination.
The second day had ended.
The third day, I awoke and begin my ascent into the mountains. Just then,
I came into a clearing, and saw grandmother bear with her two cubs. They
were running down the hillside into the valley, and headed west toward the
village. I wondered why they chose to go West, for there was nothing there.
Then grandmother bear turned and hollered, "We must go West, for a
long time ago our people were driven away from the East. We are searching
for our relatives who were separated by the pine people." I turned
and saw the valley open up beneath me, and I, too, followed their westward
path. I ran beside them for many miles, and soon I had passed them. Upon
arriving at the village, I remembered what Awanita told me. She had told
me to stay true to my path, and never look back. Just then I was sorry,
and I went to search for grandmother bear. I hoped she would guide me back
to my trail, yet she was gone. Knowing not where to go, I journeyed back
to the oak forest, and slept. The third day had ended.
This night was especially dark and a deep uninterrupted sleep carried me
through the morning. Just after I awoke, three red-tailed hawks appeared
in the eastern sky. They called out, "Yanusdi, pay attention to what
we say." They assured me that Sinnawah, the Great Mythical Hawk, would
lend me his eyes to assure my path. Sinnawah visited me that night, and
he told me the wonderful story of Tsiyugunsini (Dragging Canoe), and how
this great warrior stood proudly between the pine and oak forests. There
he refused to allow the pine people to take any more of the Aniyunwiya (Cherokee)
away, and he kept the stream pure. After walking for many miles and listening
to this ancient story, I tired once again. I built a fire near a large rock,
where Sinnawah posted himself to watch over me. Then I slept, and the fourth
day was over.
On the fifth day, I met Awiakta (Eye of the Deer), a grandmother who possessed
the spirit of Awiusdi (Little Deer) and Selu, and the wonderous powers of
the ancient storytellers. She told me that my journey was to Aganstata,
and that he was Yonequa. Her stories made me realize that it was Aganstata
that called me home, and it was he who I should follow. The spirit of the
bear was Aganstata (Groundhog Sausage), and my journey was to him. In fact,
he had called me every night since I was three years old, but the pines
had blinded my view. Why did the great one call for me? Who am I to be called
by the First Warrior, and was I even worthy to say his name? I was not,
but you do not argue with a determined bear. As night approached, I slept
in comfort, for now my companions were Awanita, Selu, Grandmother Lucy,
Sinnawah, and Awiakta. Their calm but powerful presence assured me that
soon I would speak to Yonequa.
On the sixth day, two horses appeared before me. The spirit of the horse
had always been near to my heart, yet the pine people always told me lies
about him. They told me that the horse was a beast of burden, and placed
on Earth for man. Soquiliwodi (Red Horse) came to me, and said, "We
are at peace with you, and we will give you endurance and speed on your
journey. I am not your spirit animal, but only a messenger to lead you in
the right direction. You are a bear, and are from the Anitsaguhi (Bear Clan).
Your people lived on Chenanee Ridge, just below Yonah Mountain, and there
your heart is also. Go Yanusdi, and do not be afraid! I give you courage,
now finish your journey." I once again sought the old path, but just
then a great white mare charged me. I fell while trying to escape her fury.
Just then, she reared up and I thought she was going to trample me. Placing
her hoof on my heart, not to cause harm, she said, "Do you want to
meet Yonequa?" I said, "Yes." She then told me, "the
power is within you, and always has been, for you are from the Aniyunwiya,
and our blood is yours. Strike the earth three times and repeat these words,
and you will be free to meet the great one, the spirit of the bear."
Three passages were given to me, and each word I carefully repeated. Then
she told me, "Do not ever look back to the pine people until you have
reached your destination, but always keep your eyes and heart to the East.
Your journey is almost complete, and you must not forsake those who have
led you here. Sleep, and then arise at daybreak, and you will find the head
of the stream." As I attempted to sleep, a council was held among the
six of them, and they determined whether or not I should complete my journey.
When I finally fell asleep, I dreamed my childhood dream of Yonequa once
again. He asked me to cross over, and not to fear him. I did, and then I
The seventh day, I arose to find myself completely alone. I was situated
on a small tract of land surrounded by mountains and the Little Tennessee
River. The path I had used could be seen far across the valley to the West,
and I could go no further East. Peace settled over me, as I knew that Yonequa
loved me, and my heart cried out! "Come Aganstata, I am here for you,
and you for me!" Somehow I knew that this was his home and the place
of my ancestors. How I longed to stay forever. The beautiful river lay before
me with crystal clear visions of my companions, and I knew this was the
home of all the oak people. Then, I offered a peace offering to Yonequa,
and lifted my hands to the sky in prayer. Just then a Raven called my attention
to the southeast, and cried with a loud voice, "Look into the face
of Yonequa, (Aganstata) he is calling you." As I quickly turned my
eyes upon him, his large hand stretched across the waters of Tanasi. He
said, "Take from the dirt of that grave yonder and eat from it, and
then climb into my hand Yanusdi ." I did this and placing a strand
of white beads where I had taken from. He then said, "Climb into my
hand, and listen to my story of shame." Then my heart filled with the
spirit of Aganstata, the great spirit of the bear. He lifted me to his face,
and with a warm but firm glare he comforted me. Then, I knew my destiny,
and understood my grandmother's path. Awanita always told us that his blood
was ours. Who was I to dispute the word of a wise grandmother? I shall not!
Aganstata reminded me of the desperate struggle our people underwent in
the eighteenth century, and how the culture was attacked and assimilated
with white ideals. As the undisputed Great Warrior, he had defended the
culture for forty-five years, only to watch it fall to the hands of a tireless
foe. He cried out for the return of his people from the West, and while
a tear fell from his eye, he said, "Don't let my people die. You must
return to the pine people and gather the Aniyunwiya that are among them.
Bring them to Chota, that we may be reunited. I am lonely and shame has
replaced my memory of our great nation. Once a year, you must persuade them
to come to Chota, and we will dance in honor of our ancestors and the Great
Spirit. Do not let them forget the struggles of the eighteenth century,
and make sure that our culture is revived. Remember the leaders, Collanah
of Settico, Kittegunsta Chota, Old Hop, Old Tassel, Ostenaco, and myself.
We labored to maintain this culture, and under the doublehanded schemes
of the Americans, we perished." Then the trees all joined to sing an
anthem of victory, and Aganstata placed me by the townhouse of Chota. We
were together, and our spirits would never separate.
He then told me that I must return to the pine people. As my companions
returned from the waters of Tanasi, he lowered his head beneath the tree
line. I cried for his return, but just then Grandmother Lucy took me by
the hand leading me away. She said, "your companions await you, and
now you must do as he told you. You will find freedom in these truths."
She pointed to Awanita, Sinnawah, and Soquili, and said, "they will
guide you from this place, and take you to find your relatives." As
I left, a host of animals gathered around me wishing me a safe journey.
Soquili told me, "Yonequa will sleep until your return, and his dreams
will be for his people to return." Since that day, I cry out every
night that Yonequa will call me home, but it is not yet time for my return.
All must know the truth, they must find the straight path to Chota, the
city of peace.
There the sleeping bear lies dormant in the winter of life, and beneath
the shelter of the oaks.
His head is always low, for he awaits his freedom, and I wait for mine!!
Hayuya Haniwa, Hayuya Haniwa, Hayuya Haniwa,
In Itsati Nehandyanu, Yo Ho