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Native American Legends: Naked Bear (Nyah-Gwaheh)

Name: Naked Bear
Tribal affiliation: Seneca, Cayuga, Iroquois
Native names: Nyah-gwaheh, Nia'gwahe:, Nya'kwaehe:h, Niagwahe, Ganiagwaihegowa, Ganiagwaihe, Nya'kwaeheko:wa:h, Niagwaihegowa, Nyah-gwa-ih-heh-go-wah, Hnyagwai'go:wah; Uya'kwaher, Oyahguaharh, Oyalkquoher, Oyalquarkeror, Oyahguaharb
Pronunciation: varies by tribe: usually nyah-gwah-heh or gah-nyah-gweah-heh-goh-wah
Also known as: Great Bear, Mammoth Bear, Monster Bear, Big Naked Bear, Great Naked Bear, Furless Bear
Type: Monster, stiff-legged bear
Related figures in other tribes: Yakwawi, Katshituashku, Man-Eater, Hairless Bear

Naked Bear was described as a monstrous, man-eating creature resembling an enormous bear with no fur and an oversized head. Its Iroquois names literally mean "great bear." According to some stories, this monstrous bear is hairless because its fur falls out as a result of eating human flesh. Naked Bears are nearly invincible to human attacks but can be killed by shooting arrows into the soles of their feet. Some folklorists believe the Naked Bear may have been inspired by mammoths or mastodon fossils. You can visit our stiff-legged bear site to read some opinions about that.

Naked Bear Stories

*The Hunting of The Great Bear * The Monster Bear:
    Iroquois legend about the celestial hunt for Nyah-Gwaheh, the Monster Bear.

Recommended Books of Related Native American Legends
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The Naked Bear: Folktales of the Iroquois:
    Book of Iroquois Indian stories including two about Naked Bear.
When the Chenoo Howls: Native American Tales of Terror:
    Spooky collection of Native American ghost stories and monster tales, told by a Native storyteller.
Legends, Traditions and Laws of the Iroquois or Six Nations:
    Iroquois mythology and oral history told by a 19th-century Tuscarora chief.

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Additional Resources

 Iroquois stories
 Seneca tribe
 Cayuga Indians
 New York languages
 Eastern Woodlands peoples
 Iroquoian language family

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Learn more about the Iroquois tribe.

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