Bee in the Bonnet: The Legend of San Nan Ta Claws

By B.H. Bates

Many, many moons ago, even before your parents were born, and their’s before them – there lived an old native man, whom the children named, SanNan Ta Claws.

His first names meant: One who gives of himself.
And his last name, Claws, was given to him because of his bravery!

A long, long time ago, soon after the Great Spirit met Mother nature, they fell in love and decided to make the seasons – they started with the birth of spring time – a time when things come to life and grow. Then they made the summer time, a time of warm sun and much happiness. Then they made the fall time, a sad time, a time when the light of life must fade away. And to complete the circle of life, they made winter time, a time of mourning.

And it’s during this time of mourning, that the peoples are at their
saddest. The cold north winds blow, the snows cover the ground, the days are short and the mighty Sun Spirit hides behind the clouds, sometimes for days and days on end.

In one small village, up by the North Totem pole, there lived an old elder, with long white whiskers, and he was even sadder than the rest of the peoples. You see, his son went to hunt for the reindeer and had become lost in a winter storm. Everyone was very worried, but nobody wanted to leave the warmth of the campfires to go out and look for him.

Nobody, that is, except for the brave, San Nan Ta. That night he prepared for the dangerous journey. He loaded a buck skin sack with good food, lots of flints to help him make fire and he also wrapped up little bags of sweet summer berries.

The next morning he put on many, many layers of furs to help protect him from the bitter cold. As soon as his woman saw him, she began to laugh: “You look like a big fat bear.”

Then all of a sudden, she stopped laughing. “What if our son sees you dressed like this? He might think you really are a
bear and run away!” She said with a worried look on her face.

Then she had an idea … she ran inside and came out with a basket full of red winter berries and she squished them all over San Nan Ta’s coat.

“What are you doing, you crazy woman?” San Nan Ta asked.

She stood back, and once again, she began to laugh. “There, now when our boy sees you, he’ll think you’re a big red winter berry.”

Then the great San Nan Ta, threw his sack of goodies over his shoulder and headed south to find his boy. That was the last time Mrs. Claws saw him. And she would like to ask all the good little boys and girls to look outside for San Nan Ta Claws, whenever the cold winter winds blow.

San Nan Ta, traveled for many moons – then one night he came upon a tepee buried in the deep snow, all the way up to the top, where the campfire smoke comes out. He poked his head down the dark chimney, and called out: “Ho, Ho, Ho!” (In his language ‘Ho’ means hello.)

San Nan Ta Claws found a cold and hungry native family huddled in the dark. The old father told San Nan Ta that they prayed to the Great Spirit to save them, and if the Great Spirit helped them, they promised that they would be good peoples all year long.

San Nan Ta smiled as he reached into his bag and presented them with flint to start a fire, food to eat and sweet berries for the little ones.

San Nan Ta heard from one elder, that there were other villages who also needed him. And with the a wink of an eye, as if by magic, he was gone, like smoke up the chimney. That night, San Nan Ta Claws visited every tepee and he gave everyone a gift – gifts that warmed their hearts, fed their tummies and made the little ones smile.

And legend has it – even though San Nan Ta Claws visited many, many villages and many, many tepees, his buck skin bag never seemed to become empty. San Nan Ta Claws, always had plenty of presents for all the good little boys and girls.

May the Great Spirit watch over you and yours, this holiday season!

Dear reader,
Iif you have a bee in your bonnet about Bee in the Bonnet column, or suggestions for future articles please feel free to contact B. H. Bates at: