A man belonging to the Raven clan living in a very large town had lost all of his friends, and he felt sad to think that he was left alone. He began to consider how he could leave that place without undergoing hardships. First he thought of paddling away, but he said to himself, "If I paddle away to another village and the people there see that I am alone, they may think that I have run away from my own village, on account of some other disgraceful thing." So he thought that he would go off into the forest.
While this man was traveling along in the woods the thought occurred
to him to go to the bears and let the bears kill him. The village was at
the mouth of a large salmon creek, so he went over to that early in the
morning until he found a bear trail and lay down across the end of it.
He thought that when the bears came out along this trail they would find
and kill him.
By and by, as he lay there, he heard the bushes breaking and saw a
large number of grizzly bears coming along. The largest bear led, and
the tips of his hairs were white. Then the man became frightened. He did
not want to die a hard death and imagined himself being torn to pieces
among the bears. So, when the leading bear came up to him, he said to
it, "I have come to invite you to a feast." At that the bear's fur stood
straight up, and the man thought that it was all over with him, but he
spoke again saying, "I have come to invite you to a feast, but, if you
are going to kill me, I am willing to die. I am alone. I have lost all
of my property, my children, and my wife."
As soon as he had said this the leading bear turned about and whined
to the bears that were following. Then he started back and the rest
followed him. He imagined that the biggest bear had told his people to go
back because they were invited to a feast. When he got home he began to clean up. The old sand around the
fireplace he took away and replaced with clean sand. Then he went for a
load of wood. When he told the other people in that village, however,
they were all very much frightened, and said to him, "What made you do
such a thing?" After that the man took off his shirt, and painted
himself up, putting stripes of red across his upper arm muscles, a
stripe over his heart, and another across the upper part of his chest.
Very early in the morning, after he had thus prepared, he stood
outside of the door looking for them. Finally he saw them at the mouth
of the creek, coming along with the same big bear in front. When the
other village people saw them, however, they were so terrified that they
shut themselves in their houses, but he stood still to receive them.
Then he brought them into the house and gave them seats, placing the
chief in the middle at the rear of the house and the rest around him.
First he served them large trays of cranberries preserved in grease. The
large bear seemed to say something to his companions, and as soon as he
began to eat the rest started. They watched him and did whatever he
did. The host followed that up with other kinds of food, and, after they
were through, the large bear seemed to talk to him for a very long
time. The man thought that he was delivering a speech, for he would look up at the smoke hole
every now and then and act as though talking. When he finished he
started out and the rest followed. As they went out each in turn licked
the paint from their host's arm and breast.
The day after all this happened the smallest bear came back, as it
appeared to the man, in human form, and spoke to him in Tlingit. He had
been a human being who was captured and adopted by the bears. This
person asked the man if he understood their chief, and he said, "No."
"He was telling you," the bear replied, "that he is in the same
condition as you. He has lost all of his friends. He had heard of you
before he saw you. He told you to think of him when you are mourning for
your lost ones."
When the man asked this person why he had not told him what was said
the day before, he replied that he was not allowed to speak his native
language while the chief was around. It was on account of this adventure
that the old people, when they killed a grizzly bear, would paint a
cross on its skin. Also, when they gave a feast, no matter if a person
were their enemy, they would invite him and become friends just as this
man did to the bears.