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Brother Bear and Sister Snow Star

Brother Bear lumbered through the snow that had already fallen the night before, grumbling to himself. His growling stomach was as loud as his own voice. His wonderful old rotten trees with tasty bugs and sweet honey from the bees, and the plentiful fish and berries, were nowhere to be found. All he could find were a few roots here and there.

Brother Bear was not like the other bears. His friends ate their fill late in the fall and went to sleep, but not Brother Bear. He never could sleep all through the cold months of the moon, so every winter he was alone and sometimes a little hungry. But this particular winter would be the one to change both his life and his feelings toward the winter.

After a day of wandering through the forest looking for his dinner, Brother Bear felt so sad and lonely. Ignoring his hunger, he went to his cave and sang himself to sleep. His bear song always made him feel better and got him sleepy enough for a nap. But that day, it seemed that just as he closed his eyes to drift off to sleep, he heard a sweet voice singing outside his cave.

As he opened his eyes, he was full of wonderment about the voice: it was not the owl of the night or the song of Brother Wolf. It was a voice he had never heard, and it seemed to call him into the night's snow.

He slowly poked his head out of his cave and saw nothing, only the snow gently falling. So in his big bear voice he called out to the night.

''Who dares come by my cave? Who are you?''

The singing stopped, and all Brother Bear could hear was a sweet voice laughing.

''You are such a silly bear, pretending to be so fierce. I do not fear you, for I have been watching you. I know you are lonely. Creator sent me to keep you company in the season of winter moons.''

Brother Bear was a bit paralyzed. ''A voice in the night is my company? I do not see you. You cannot be real. I must still be sleeping.''

''Oh, you're not asleep,'' the voice replied. ''Come out of your cave and I will show myself to you. Don't be afraid.''

Brother Bear slowly crept out of the safety of his cave. As he neared the voice, the most surprising thing happened. Before him, the brightest star in the night sky fell ever so gently. Little lights danced about in song, and the light was so bright Brother Bear covered his eyes. When he peeked through his paws, the light started to fade and was replaced by a white bear, just as white as the snow. Its fur sparkled like sunlight on ice. Its eyes were blue like a cool lake. It surely was a beautiful sight.

Brother Bear stared in amazement and somehow found his voice.

''What is your name? You do have one, don't you?''

''Well, of course I do,'' answered the white bear. ''My name is Sister Snow Star, and I will be with you in the season of the snow for now and always.''

Brother Bear could do nothing but jump and dance about in the snow. He was happy, for when he had looked into Snow Star's eyes, his winter heart melted and he fell in love.

For the rest of the winter, Snow Star and Brother Bear hunted and found food together. It seemed Snow Star had the gift to find honey safely tucked away in trees that Brother Bear never could find. They played bear games and chased one another, tumbling in the snow like cubs. But before he knew it, the days grew longer and the snows were starting to melt away. He knew his beloved Snow Star soon would be leaving. And as sure as spring comes, one night Snow Star nuzzled Brother Bear one last time until next winter's snow. He was sad, but he knew she would return in the next season of the snow.

After they nuzzled and played in the snow, Snow Star whispered in Brother Bear's ear.

''Don't worry. You will never be alone, for the brightest star in the night sky will be me and I will be with you every night. I will watch over you until the chill of snow comes back.''

Then she nuzzled him goodbye and turned into dancing lights. She shot up to the night sky and burst into the biggest, brightest star of all. Brother Bear called out to the sky.

''I cannot wait until snow comes again. And even though I must wait until then to see you again, I know I am not alone.''

Seasons changed and before Brother Bear knew it, Snow Star was back; and as it goes, their love is always the warmest in the winter.

So when it's cold and the winter gets you down, remember: your heart can keep you warm.

Lim Lim.

Ken ''Rainbow Cougar'' Edwards, from the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state, is an accomplished painter and storyteller. Edwards is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., and a longtime cartoonist for Indian Country Today.