Bear, Coyote, Raven and Some Sweet, Sweet Berries: A Chumash Story Told By Alan Salazar

Long, long ago when the animals were people, Bear did not like to share the black berries that grew down by the creek. He would chase off anyone that tried to eat even just one of those sweet, sweet berries.

Now one summer morning coyote went down to the creek to get a drink of water. He drank some of the cold, cold water and noticed that the berry bushes were loaded with thousands of sweet, sweet berries.  He looked to his left, then his right and he did not see Bear. Coyote knew that Bear would chase off anyone that tried to eat even just one of those sweet, sweet berries.

Not seeing bear any where, Coyote thought it would be really, really cool to get a few of those sweet, sweet berries. Coyote slowly crawled over to the berry bushes. Just as he was about to take a berry,  Bear who was on the other side of the berry bushes stood-up on his big old hind legs. He was 7 feet tall and weighed 500 pounds, super duper heavyweight size. He roared so loud that it scared Coyote so much that he jumped 5 feet straight up. He hit the ground running faster that he had ever run before.  Bear thought that was really, really funny and he laughed as Coyote ran away. Then he went back to eating those sweet, sweet berries.

Coyote ran all the way to the top of a near by hill. He was out of breath, so he laid down under a big old oak tree to rest for awhile. As he was resting  and catching his breath, he heard caw, caw, it was Coyote’s friend Raven.

Raven asked Coyote why he was breathing so hard. Coyote told him how Bear had chased him away from the berries down by the creek. And that all he wanted was just a few of those sweet, sweet berries.

Raven said, “Ya dude, Bear hoards all the sweet, sweet berries for himself. I tried to get just a few of those sweet, sweet berries and he swatted at me with his big old paw. That’s not nice at all dude. He should share them with everyone, dude. You know Coyote, we should teach that dude a lesson.

(It was Raven who started the dude thing)

Coyote agreed and the two friends began to plan their revenge. As they planned how to trick Bear and hopefully teach him a lesson, they could see him down by the creek. They could see him eating and eating those sweet, sweet berries all day.  Coyote napped several times resting up for his big adventure later that day.  Coyotes nap a lot.

Bear would only stop eating those sweet, sweet berries to get a drink of that cold, cold water from the creek.  Raven and Coyote  had watched Bear eat not a hundred berries, but thousands of those sweet, sweet berries.  His big old belly was so big that it almost touched the ground as he walked to the creek.

Just before the sun was about to set Coyote trotted down to the creek.  Raven flew down, circling high above Bear and Coyote.  When Coyote got down to the creek he boldly walked up to the berry bushes.  He quickly grabbed a few of those sweet, sweet berries, popped them in his mouth, swallowed them, then howled as loud as he could.  It scared Bear for a second, but just a second.

Then Bear charged through the berry bushes and started chasing Coyote around the bushes. Coyote ran as fast as he could. They must of went around the berry bushes ten times.  Bear was breathing very heavily because he had ate so many of  those sweet, sweet berries.  But, he was really, really close to Coyote, so close Coyote could smell Bear’s berry, berry breath. Bear thought he was going teach Coyote a lesson. But, just as Bear swatted at Coyote with his big old paw Coyote jumped straight up.  Raven flew down and grabbed Coyote, lifting him up even higher. As Bear fell flat on his big old belly, Raven dropped Coyote.  He landed right on Bear’s back. He wrapped his front paws around Bear’s big old neck and his back paws around Bear’s big old belly. Well, half way around that big old belly.

Bear took off running and bucking trying to get Coyote off his back. Coyote held on with all his might.  Bear was pawing and clawing at Coyote.  He was bucking and pawing, bucking and clawing at Coyote. Raven flew down and pecked Bear on his big old head. Bear  could not get Coyote off his back.  After a few seconds, eight to be exact, Bear fell down flat on his big old face and big old belly.  He was exhausted and was gasping for air.

Coyote jumped off of Bear,  dusted himself off and trotted over to the berry bushes. Raven flew down to the berry bushes.  They each ate a few of those sweet, sweet, sweet berries. Coyote put a few berries in front of Bear, he did not want Bear to be too mad at him.

As Raven and Coyote left they both said to bear,” We just wanted a few berries, there are more than enough for all of us, if we all just share,,,,DUDE!”
The next morning Coyote and Raven went down to the creek. Bear saw them and stood up on his big old hind legs. Coyote and Raven held their breath and were kind of scared.Then Bear said, “I thought about what you said yesterday. And you are right, there are enough berries for all of us, if we share.”

From that day on Bear shared those sweet, sweet berries with all of the animals. He turned out to be a good dude.
Now Coyote did not realize that day what he had done. He did not know that he created the very first rodeo event, yes rodeo event— Bear back riding.

Copyright © Alan Salazar. All rights reserved. 

Alan Salazar writes, "I have worked in several different areas in my life. I am a Native American traditional storyteller, a traditional paddler of Chumash tomols (plank canoes), a Native American consultant/monitor and a juvenile institution officer. I have also, been a journeyman plaster since I was a young man and have been around construction most of my life. My family has traced our family ancestry to the Chumash village of Ta’apu, now known as Simi Valley and the Tataviam village of Pi’ing near Castaic, Ca.  We are Ventureno Chumash and Tataviam. My ancestors were brought into the San Fernando Mission starting in 1803. And I continue to actively protect my ancestors village sites and tribal territories.

I have been actively involved with several Native American groups. I am a founding member of the Kern County Native American Heritage Preservation Council and the  Chumash Maritime Association.  I am a member of the California Indian Advisory Council for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.  I have been a community  advisor with the Ventura County Indian Education Consortium for over 15 years. And I am currently a member of the Environmental Review Board for the city of Malibu. 

As a member of the Chumash Maritime Association I have helped build the first working traditional Chumash plank canoe in modern times and have paddled in this plank canoe for over 15 years.  I have also been involved with teaching youths about Native American cultures. I have been involved with protecting Native American cultural sites for 20 years.  I have been a consultant/monitor on sites in Ventura, LA, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern counties.  I am one of the few consultant/monitors that has taken college classes in archaeology and has worked as a field archaeologist, to help me better understand the field. There are several other groups I have also been involved with as an adult.
I have self published the first ever Chumash coloring book featuring important Chumash animals and the Chumash language.  I am currently working on self publishing a small book of traditional and modern Chumash stories.  Chumash stories that I have told hundreds of times to thousands of children at schools in southern California. I will release that book in late 2014. I also, make Chumash seaweed rattles and Chumash clapper sticks (musical instrument) to help teach students Chumash songs.
A storyteller in the Chumash culture is a teacher. My stories educate and entertain. I share my joy, love and respect of my culture when I tell my stories.  As a young boy I enjoyed listening to my Father tell us about being a Marine in WWII in the Pacific islands.  And having milk and cookies with Mrs. Taylor,  an older widow lady who lived three doors down from us in Hanford, California. Mrs. Taylor would tell me stories about Hanford in the early 1900’s.  I was only 5 or 6 years old, but I loved learning from these stories.  So, sharing my stories is something I learned from many elders in my life, and not all of them Chumash.  Being a traditional Chumash paddler of Chumash plank canoes and helping to bring back our Chumash maritime culture is also, very important to me.  But, storytelling is my way of connecting to people of all ages.  It is extremely important to me.

I have also, worked as a Juvenile Institution Officer for approximately 20 years at Juvenile Facilities in Santa Barbara and Bakersfield, Ca. At the Juvenile centers, besides supervising young people, I dealt with people in difficult situations on a daily basis.  Counseling at risk youth was a large part of my job. Motivating and inspiring troubled youth is something I have strived to do most of my adult life.

It is not easy being a proud California Native American. Misinformation about my tribes is still out there. And we have many obstacles still to overcome.  But, I was raised to be proud of my Native American heritage. I take pride in being a positive role model and a respected Elder.  And I believe by sharing my knowledge about my Chumash/Tataviam cultures, I am saving these rich Native cultures."

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