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Native American Polar Bear Mythology

The polar bear is little-known among Native American tribes (only the coastal Cree communities live in areas where polar bears are normally encountered in the wild), but they are well-known and of great cultural importance to the Inuit ("Eskimo") people of northern Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. According to Inuit traditions, it was Polar Bear who first taught humans the art of seal hunting. Polar bears are greatly respected for their strength, courage, and spiritual power, and Inuit angakkuit (shamans) frequently call upon the spirit of the polar bear. Like other spiritually powerful animals, polar bears frequently shape-shift into human form and back in Inuit mythology, putting on a white bear coat to take on their ursine form.

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Native American Polar Bear Gods and Spirits

Nanarluq (Inuit)
Nanook (Inuit)

Native American Legends About Polar Bears

The Woman and her Bear:
    Inuit legend about a childless woman who adopted a polar bear cub.

Recommended Books of Polar Bear Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

The Orphan and the Polar Bear:
    Beautiful children's book by an Inuit author about a polar bear who comes to the aid of a mistreated child.
The Giant Bear:
    Another good picture book based on an Inuit folktale about a monstrous undersea polar bear.
The Polar Bear Son:
    Charming picture book for kids based on an Inuit legend about a woman who adopts a polar bear cub.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.




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