- A large meat and fruit eating animal inhabiting the forest and mountain
areas of the United States. The grizzly bear was the largest and
fiercest of these animals. Some weighed as much as 1,000 pounds.
The black bear was the most common and was smaller than the grizzly bear.
Black bears weighed from 200 to 300 pounds. The cinnamon bear was
a color phase of the black bear. All bears except the grizzly could
climb trees. They lived on fruits, roots, insects, honey, and meat.
During the cold winter months they slept in caves or hollow trees.
The bear was one of the most useful animals
to the Indian. It was hunted for its flesh, and especially for its
fat or grease, which the Indian preserved in skins. Heavy winter
robes were made from the pelts, and moccasins cut from skins. Thongs
of twisted bears' guts were used for bowstrings, and the bows were rubbed
with bears' oil. The oil was used freely on the hair and sometimes
on the entire body. paints were mixed with bears' grease. Bear
claws were prized as ornaments.
The bear was held in great reverence and
admired for its strength and courage. Some Indians were superstitious
about the animal and would not kill it, and a few writers have said that
this was because these Indians feared the bear. Another reason given
was that Indian women did not care to work over bearskins as they gave
them sore throats. The bear was used as a totem for many clans, and
therefore could not be killed.
A wounded bear was one of the most ferocious
animals, and the Indian could not always kill him outright with his simple
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][ Food ][ Hair ][ Moccasin
][ Paint ][ Totem ]