Constellation chart and illustration by Alexander Jamieson.

Ursa Major

Ursa Major constellation in the northern sky. It can be used a pointer due to the North Star or Polaris. The seven stars that form the Big Dipper are Dubhe (Alpha Ursae Majoris), Merak (Beta UMa), Phecda (Gamma UMa), Megrez (Delta UMa), Alioth (Epsilon UMa), Mizar (Zeta UMa), and Alkaid (Eta UMa). M81 is a grand spiral galaxy that lies 11.8 million light years away. M101 or the Pinwheel Galaxy is a face-on spiral galaxy and it lay at a distance of 21 million light years away. The latest research on this region confirms that Ursa Major contains 13 stars with their own solar systems and orbiting planets.


In Blackfoot tradition there is a connect between the land and the through the story of bear in the northern sky. A woman lived with her little sister, seven brothers and father. Each day, when the brothers and father would leave for the hunt, she would leave her little sister at the camp and steal away to meet with her love, who was a bear. The woman did not want to marry any of the young men and she kept her love a secret. Her little sister discovered the bear and told her father. He asked people from the village to help him kill the bear. They found the bear and killed him.

Ursa Major star chart.

The woman was so angry when she learned that her love, the bear, was dead. She was a powerful medicine woman, so she took fur from the bear’s paws and painted her face. She transformed into a bear and moved through the village, scaring the people. The brothers and father returned from hunting to the empty village. The brothers scoped up the little sister and tried to flee from the angry bear woman. The father tried to attack bear woman, but she beat him down. The bear woman then chased the brothers who had fled to the bush. One the boys had a powerful medicine. He took water in his palm and sprinkled it around them to create a lake between them and the bear woman. But the bear woman pursued them around the lake. The boy threw down porcupine quills to create a thicket, but the bear woman forced her way through. They climbed a tree get away, but the bear woman ran up to the base of the tree. She roared that she would get them for killing her love, the bear. The brothers had nowhere to go. The brother with the strong medicine decided that they should go to the sky to escape. They all went up and up into the northern night sky. The brother with the great medicine is the North Star. The six brothers and the little sister are seen in the Big Dipper.