When Grizzlies Walked Upright


Retold by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz

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1. What is the time period and how does it affect the literary style?

There is no exact date in which this origin myth was written. It was most likely written sometime before the Europeans came to American in the late 1400’s by the Modoc tribe, but there is no exact time known. It tells of “The Sky Spirit” which creates the earth, and the creation of the Native Americans. The time in which it was written affected the literary style by making it an origin myth. During this time, Native Americans were interested about the world and how things came to be. They would come up with myths to answer their questions.

2. What is the author's purpose in writing the selected piece?

The author’s purpose in writing this story is to give an explanation of how the Native Americans came to be. It also explains the creation of Mount Shasta. It tells how a young girl, the daughter of the Sky Spirit, had been blow off the mountain by the Wind Spirit and found by a grizzly bear. She was brought up and raised by the bear, and later marries a bear. Their children become the first Native Americans. The Native Americans living around the mountain would never kill a grizzly bear because of this story.

3. What literary techniques does the author employ in achieving his or her purpose?

The author used imagery to help the reader picture what was happening in the story. This helps the reader be able to better understand the story. There is also conflict in this story between the Sky Spirit and the grizzlies. The Sky Spirit had cursed the grizzlies saying, ‘Get down on your hands and knees. You have wronged me, and from this moment all of you will walk on four feet and never talk again,' (Erdoes).

4. How is the literature characteristic of the time period?

This literature shows the beliefs of the Modocs on how Native Americans came to be. It is characteristic of the time period because the Modocs related themselves to bears. During that time they might have picked bears because of how powerful they were and thought that they were somewhat similar to bears. Today, people know that they are the closest in similarity to monkeys through science.

Section 1
1. The Earth on Turtle's Back 2. When Grizzlies Walked Upright 3. from The Navajo Origin Legend 4. from The Iroquois Constitution
Section 2
1. A Journey Through Texas 2. Boulders Taller Than the Great Tower of Seville 3. from The interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano 4. Diamond Island: Alcatraz
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