Ihkitsikammiksi - The Big Dipper

According to the Blackfoot of the North American Plains, there was once a camp of 10 lodges. In one of them lived a family of nine children, seven boys and two girls. While the six older brothers were away on the war-path, the eldest girl, Bear Skin Woman, married a grizzly bear. Her father was so angered that, with the help of the others, he surrounded the grizzly’s cave and killed him. When Bear Skin Woman found out about her husband’s death, she changed into a huge grizzly bear, becoming Bear Skin Woman. She attacked the camp, killing everyone, including her father and mother. She spared her youngest brother and sister. The two were greatly frightened when they overheard her talking to herself, planning how she might kill them. One day, when the younger sister went to the river for water, she met her six brothers returning from the war-path. She told them what danger they were in, and they planned to rescue her. She gathered many prickly pears and was instructed to place them in front of the lodge in such a way that there would be a safe way for the children to escape. The children left the lodge at midnight. When the older sister heard them leave, she followed, only to step on the prickly pears. Roaring with pain, she changed herself into a bear again and ran after her brothers. The younger brother had strong medicine powers.

When Bear Skin Woman overtook them, the younger brother shot an arrow into the air. Immediately the children found themselves just as far in advance of their sister as the arrow flew. Bear Skin Woman got close again, but the younger brother waved his medicine feather, which brought thick underbrush in her way. Then he made a lake come between them. Finally, in the last effort to escape, he made a large tree into which the seven brothers and their little sister climbed. But the grizzly knocked the four lowest from the tree. She was about to kill them when the younger brother waved his medicine feather and, singing a song, shot an arrow into the air. Immediately the little sister arose to the sky. He shot six arrows, and each time a brother went up. Finally the younger brother followed, and all of them together formed the family of the Seven Brothers. They took the same position in the sky that they had in the tree. The small star at one side of the handle is the younger sister, while the four at the bottom are the brothers who had been knocked from the tree by their sister, the grizzly.

- As told by Brings Down the Sun, Apatohsipikani.

As told by Brings Down the Sun, Apatohsipikani Canadian Heritage Information Network
Australian Museums & Galleries Online, Australia; Centre of the Universe; Gemini Observatory, Hawaii; Glenbow Museum; The Manitoba Museum; National Research Council Canada; Planétarium de Montréal

© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003

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