In this version of a popular Iroquois legend, we learn how the autumn leaves get their color.
A hunter found the tracks of a great bear. Not long afterwards, more tracks of this bear were discovered, surrounding the village. Other animals, many hunted by the tribe for food, began to disappear. The hunters determined that the great bear was responsible for their loss.
Hungry due to their main source of food depleted, a party of warriors set out to kill the bear. After following the tracks for many days, they came upon the bear. They shot arrows at the animal, but to no avail. The bear’s skin was too thick for the arrows to pierce it. And instead, the assault angered the bear, and he turned on the warriors, killing most of them.
The surviving warriors returned to the village to tell their tale. Party after party of warriors went out to try to slay the great bear, and failed. The people were starving and afraid to leave their village, which the great bear would circle each night.
One night three brothers had the same dream that recurred for three nights. In the dream, they saw a vision of themselves tracking and killing the monster. Thinking it held the truth, they went to track and kill the bear.
They followed the bear’s tracks for many days until they came to the end of the earth. The monstrous bear bounded from the earth into the heavens. The brothers pursued it into the sky. To this day, the three hunters are still visible, chasing the bear in the winter nights’ sky.
In the fall, as the bear readies for its winter’s sleep, the three hunters are able to draw near enough to shoot their arrows into the bear’s body. His blood drips from the skies onto the autumn leaves, painting them red and yellow.
The arrows never kill the great bear; and he always escapes. His wounds cause him to become invisible for a time, but eventually, he reappears in the skies as the Big Dipper, the three brothers still chasing him.