A story told by the Kiowa People in Wyoming and South Dakota, and by other tribes
One day long ago a traveling party of the Kiowa People were crossing the great prairie and camped by a stream. Many of the Bear People lived nearby, and they smelled the Kiowa People. The Bear People were hungry, and some of the bear warriors went out to hunt the Kiowa People.
Seven young girls from the Kiowa camp were out gathering berries, up along the stream, far from the campsite. The Bears came upon them and growled to attack. The girls ran and ran, out across the open prairie, until they came to a large gray rock. They climbed onto the rock, but the bears began to climb the rock also.
The girls began to sing a prayer to the rock, asking it to protect them form the Bear People. No one had ever honored the rock before, and the rock agreed to help them. The rock, who had laid quietly for centuries, began to stand up and reach to the sky. The girls rose higher and higher as the rock stood up. The bear warriors began to sing to the bear gods, and the bears grew taller as the rock rose up.
The bears tried and tried to climb the rock as it grew steeper and higher, but their huge claws only split the rock face into thousands of strips as the rock grew up out of their reach. Pieces of rock were scraped and cut away by the thousands and fell in piles at the foot of the rock. The rock was cut and scarred on all of its sides as the bears fought to climb it.
At last, the bears gave up the hunt, and turned to go back to their own houses. They slowly returned to the original sizes. As the huge bears came back across the prairie, slowly becoming smaller, the Kiowas saw them and broke camp. They fled in fear, and looking back at the towering mountain of rock, they guessed that it must be the lodge of these giant bears. “Tso’ Ai’,” some People say today, or “Bears’ Lodge.”
The Kiowa girls were afraid, high up on the rock, and they saw their People break camp and leave them there, thinking the girls had all already been eaten by the bears.
The girls sang again, this time to the stars. The stars were happy to hear their song, and the stars came down and took the seven girls into the sky, the Seven Sisters, and each night they pass over Bears’ Lodge and smile in gratitude to the rock spirit.