Long ago there was a Cherokee clan call the Ani-Tsa’kahl. One of the boys of this clan loved to spend all day in the woods. He began going every day, leaving at daybreak and staying until after dark. Finally, he wouldn’t even eat in his mother’s house. Long brown hair began to grow all over his body.
“I’m beginning to be different,” he said. “I can’t live here any longer. If you come with me, there will be plenty to eat, and you never have to work for it. But if you want to come, you must first fast seven days.”
His father and mother talked about it, then talked to the heads of the clan. They had a council and after everything had been said, they decided to go. So they fasted for seven days, and on the seventh day, they left their town with the boy leading the way.
People in other towns heard about this and sent their headmen to persuade them to come back. They were going into the woods, and their bodies were already beginning to be covered with hair like animals because for seven days they had not taken human food and their nature was changing. They would not come back, but said,
“We are going where there is always plenty to eat. From now on we will be Yoni (Cherokee for Bear). When you are hungry, come into the woods and call us and we will give you our own flesh to eat so you can live. Don’t be afraid to kill us, because we will live always.”
They taught the messengers the songs to call them. The bear hunters have them still. When they finished teaching the songs, the Ani-Tsa’kahl turned away and the headmen turned back to their settlements. When the headmen turned back, they saw a group of bears going into the woods where the Ani-Tsa’kahl had been.
Source: Display Panel, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Cherokee, North Carolina, September 09, 2017.