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How the Bear Lost His Tail
an Ojibwe legend told to Marian, Doreen, and Leonard Belille
by Jerry Smith

Long, long ago there were only creatures on the earth. There were birds, bears, deer, mice, everything but people. In this long ago time, all the animals spoke the same language. And just like some people nowadays, they played tricks on one another and made each other laugh. They also helped each other. So it was with all the animals.

One day in the winter when the lakes had frozen, but before the winter sleep, Bear was walking along the lakeshore. As he was walking, he came upon Otter sitting near a hole on the ice with a pile of fish.

"You've got a mighty big pile of fish there," Bear said. "How did you get them fish?"

Instead of telling how he dove down into the water and caught the fish, Otter decided to trick Bear. You see, back then Bear had a very long bushy tail. He was very proud of his tail, and all the animals knew it.

"The way I catch my fish is by putting my tail in this ice hole," Otter explained. "I wiggle it around once in a while so the fish see it. When a fish bites onto my tail, I quickly pull it up and out of the water."

"That sure is an easy way to catch fish," Bear said. "Do you mind if I use your fishing hole?"

Otter, laughing behind the Bear's back, said, "I have enough fish. Use my fishing hole as long as you like." Then Otter picked up his fish and walked away. Bear carefully poked his tail into the ice hole and waited. He waited and waited. Once in a while he'd wiggle his tail so the fish could see it. Bear waited until the sun began to set, but not one fish even nibbled at his tail. At last, he decided to go home, but when he tried to stand up, his tail had frozen into the ice! He couldn't move! He pulled and pulled at his tail, but it was stuck tight. Finally, he pulled with all of his strength and ripped off half his tail!

Now you know why the Bear has a short tail, and remember . . . don't always believe what people tell you.


How the Bear Lost His Tail
Word Problems

Join: Result Unknown
Otter went fishing. He caught ___ fish and then he caught ___ more. How many fish did Otter catch?
(5, 4) (16, 23) (46, 46)

Separate: Result Unknown
Otter caught ___ fish. He gave ___ fish to a friend. Now how many fish does Otter have?
(7, 4) (18, 6) (33, 27)

Part Part Whole: Whole Unknown
There were ___ bass and ___ northern pike swimming near Otter's fishing hole. How many fish were swimming altogether?
(4, 6) (22, 15) (37, 29)

Compare: Difference Unknown
Otter has ___ fish. Bear has ___ fish. How many more fish does Otter have than Bear?
(10, 7) (18, 12) (42, 34)

Otter had ___ fishing holes. He caught ___ fish from each hole. How many fish did Otter catch?
(3, 4) (4, 10) (7, 20)

Measurement Division
Bear gave ___ of fish to some friends. He gave ___ to each friend. How many friends got fish?
(8, 2) (25, 5) (48, 12)

Partitive Division
Otter shared ___ fish with his ___ friends. Otter and each friend got the same number of fish. How many fish did each friend get?
(8, 2) (15, 5) (48, 6)

Join: Change Unknown
In the morning Otter caught ___ fish. By the end of the day, he had caught ___ fish. How many fish did Otter catch in the afternoon? He did not fish in the evening.
(6, 10) (12, 23) (66, 85)

Separate: Change Unknown
___ fish were swimming in a pond. Some swam away.
Then there were ___ fish swimming. How many fish swam away?
(9, 4) (17, 6) (35, 27)

Part Part Whole: Part Unknown
Otter caught ___ fish. ___ were northern pike. The rest were small mouth bass. How many small mouth bass did Otter catch? (7, 2) (26, 7) (33, 22)