Blue (or Gray) Bear

by Richard L. Dieterle

A Gray Grizzly Bear

Blue Bear was the third of the great Spirit Bears created by Earthmaker, who gave him the nature of the east wind and set him up in that quadrant as an Island Weight to suppress the instability of his creation. Blue Bear is the spiritual original of the Mąco, or Grizzly Bear [inset].1 The fur of this Spirit Bear is made of hairs that vary in thickness and color so that he is described variously as "blue" (co) or "gray." Blue Bear has control over the days, which explains why he is sometimes described as being gray or even polychrome: for days change from sunny to stormy and many states in between, and so run the gamut of the color spectrum.

It is because of Blue Bear's power over the days that some who are blessed by him can "hold the day" and ensure good weather for sacred gatherings.2 Members of the Blue Bear Subclan, who are descended from Blue Bear, keep calendar sticks which track time, allowing them to give directions to the tribe on when planting or hunting cycles are in effect. Members of this subclan were priests who placed their altars on hills or high bluffs.3

Blue Bear led a party to the first gathering of the Hocąk clans at Red Banks. On the way, every time he passed a plant or animal that had sharp and dangerous parts, they were transformed into men who followed in his train. When he arrived at Red Banks he informed all those gathered there that his followers were to be the Soldier Clan of the Hocągara, charged by Earthmaker to ward off evil from the nation.4

It is said that when bears or Bear clansmen die, they return to the abode of Blue Bear.5

Links: Bear Spirits, Were-Grizzlies and Other Man-Bears, Day, Island Weights, Earthmaker, Red Bear, White Bear, Black Bear, Snowbirds.

Stories: featuring Blue Bear as a character: The Creation of the World, The Creation Council, Bear Clan Origin Myth; mentioning grizzly bears: Blue Bear, Brass and Red Bear Boy, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Were-Grizzly, The Spotted Grizzly Man, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Roaster, Wazųka, Little Priest's Game, The Story of How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistega's Magic, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, The Two Boys (giant black grizzly), Partridge's Older Brother, The Chief of the Heroka, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Dipper (white grizzly), Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Creation of Man (v. 9), The Creation of Evil, cp. The Woman Who Fought the Bear; mentioning (spirit) bears (other than were-bears): White Bear, Black Bear, Red Bear, Bear Clan Origin Myth, The Shaggy Man, Bear Offers Himself as Food, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Redhorn's Sons, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Hocąk Clans Origin Myth, The Messengers of Hare, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Hocąk Migration Myth, Red Man, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Two Boys, Creation of the World (v. 5), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Brown Squirrel, Snowshoe Strings, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The Spider's Eyes, Little Priest's Game, Little Priest, How He went out as a Soldier, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Trickster's Tail, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Warbundle Maker, cf. Fourth Universe; set at Red Banks (Mógašúc): The Creation Council, Annihilation of the Hocągara II, The Great Lodge, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (vv. 1, 2, 3, 5), Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 2a, 3, 8, 11, 12), The Winnebago Fort, The Beginning of the Winnebago, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, The Hocąk Arrival Myth, The Creation of Man (v. 10), Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins (fr. 1), Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Deer Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief, Šųgepaga, Gatschet's Hocank hit’e ("St. Peet," "Hocąk Origins"), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), The Seven Maidens, First Contact, Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath.

Themes: having the power to control the winds and/or the weather: Deer Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 1, 5), The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Chief of the Heroka, East Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 2), East Shakes the Messenger, South Seizes the Messenger, The Dipper.


1 Walter Funmaker, The Winnebago Black Bear Subclan: a Defended Culture (Ph.D. Thesis, University of Minnesota: December, 1986 [MnU-D 86-361]]) 49. Informant: One Who Wins of the Hocąk Bear Clan.

2 Walter W. Funmaker, The Bear in Winnebago Culture: A Study in Cosmology and Society (Master Thesis, University of Minnesota: June, 1974 [MnU-M 74-29]) 16-17, 65. Dr. Funmaker is a member of the Hocągara tribe. His informant was Walking Soldier (1900-1977), a member of the Bear Clan.

3 Funmaker, The Winnebago Black Bear Subclan, 49.

4 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 186-187. His informant was a member of the Thunderbird Clan.

5 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 187.