Bear Woman

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Inuit traditional figure

Bear Woman was an Inuit girl who became lost while playing hide-and-seek with her brothers. She was found near death by a large bear, who took her home and raised her as his own (see also Feral Children). When she grew up she and the bear married and had two half-human cubs. Her brothers somehow discovered her, killed the bear father-husband and took her and the cubs home, where they were re-integrated into the human community. But later Bear Woman began to transform into a bear, and afraid that she would harm her human family, she and her cubs returned to the wild early one morning, while the aurora borealis lights were dancing in the sky. Climbing the hill into the trees, their footprints gradually changed from human to bear.

he tale has been interpreted by Colin Chisholm (the adopted son of a part-Inuit woman) as illustrating a belief among the Inuit in the primacy of the foster or adoptive home in forming the character of an individual: Bear Woman became more bear than human and eventually had to return to her adoptive environment.


Chisholm, Colin. "Mama Bear: An Adopted Son Explores the Hidden Landscape of His Family," Hope, (November/December 1996), repr. in UTNE Reader, (March/April 1997), pp. 74, 102-03


Mythological, Traditional and Divine Figures
Native American and Alaskan Native, Inuit
Foundlings and Feral Children
Animals (i.e., Feral Children)
Temporary Care
Adoptive or Foster Parent(s) Died
Divorce or Premature Death of Adoptive Parent(s)
Birth Sibling(s) Remained With or Returned to Birth Family
Birth Family Traced Adoptee/Fosteree
Contact Suspended or Stopped
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