The Legend of the Sleeping Bear is a Michigan story, a Chippewa legend, that I grew up with.Â I’ve always found it to be very sad, but now that I’m a mother I can’t think about it without tearing up.Â (Above you can see North Manitou Island – the long flat surface to the left; and Sleeping Bear Dunes to the right.Â I did not climb the dunes this year, not enough time, and just plain dangerously hot.)
Long ago, along the Wisconsin shoreline, a mother bear and her two cubs were driven into Lake Michigan by a raging forest fire. The bears swam for many hours, but eventually the cubs tired and lagged behind. Mother bear reached the shore and climbed to the top of a high bluff to watch and wait for her cubs. Too tired to continue, the cubs drowned within sight of the shore. The Great Spirit Manitou created two islands to mark the spot where the cubs disappeared and the winds buried the sleeping mother under the sands of the dunes where she waits to this day.