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This work portrays the spirit of Bear, a creature thought by Southeastern tribes to have a special relationship to man. According to one legend the bear tribe derives from a group of people who decided that farming was too much work. They left their homes and began to live in the woods, existing entirely on wild foods. Soon their bodies became increasingly hairy and it was not long before they assumed their present form as bears.
When a Southeastern hunter killed an animal for food he usually carried out a small ritual in which he thanked the animal for allowing itself to be taken. If he failed to do so the spirit of the animal could make him sick. However, no such ritual was carried out when a hunter killed a bear because it was thought that bears had failed in mythical times to establish a sickness to inflict on man when they were killed.While Bear was sometimes considered to be the chief of the animals by virtue of his strength, he was also thought to have a buffoon-like or comical aspect as well.