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Megalonyx Ground Sloth

Uya'kwaher is the Tuscarora nation's version of the Haudenosaunee Naked Bear creature. The naked bears are a type of cryptid described in Haudenosaunee stories are large, bear-like animals that are mostly hairless. Natives were said to have hunted them to extinction. Some theorized that these animals were actually ground sloths. According to the Tuscarora legacy of J.N.B. Hewitt by Blair A. Rudes and Dorothy Crouse, " Uya'kwaher was most often described as an enormous bear like creature...the Uya'kwaher is described as a mammoth-like being (1987)." Either depicted as a giant bear like creature or a mammoth, the Uya'kwaher was hunted in various stories to create a powerful medicine.

Names in Haudenosaunee Languages[]


Description from Tuscarora legacy of J.N.B. Hewitt by Blair A. Rudes and Dorothy Crouse (1987)

In the Tuscarora language, Uya'kwaher means tough or inedible meat. In Seneca language, the naked bear is known as Niagwahe. It is known as Hnyagwai'go:wah in the Cayuga language. Other names include Nyah-gwaheh (pronounced nyah-gwah-heh) and Ganiagwaihegowa (gah-nyah-gweah-heh-goh-wah).

Extinction of the Naked Bears in Legend[]

According to Haudenosaunee myth, the naked bears were driven to extinction around the 17th Century. In one story, a particular naked bear which had escaped this persecution was greatly feared for roaming the woods and killing hunters, leading the Indians to station themselves on a high rock, lure the monster to them, and kill it with arrows and pelted stones. The hunters cut off the animal's head and brought it back to their village on the North River, where people from other tribes came to see it. The Mohicans claimed the credit for the killing.


The naked bear was said to have been "remarkably long-bodied, broad down by his shoulders, but thin or narrow just at its hind legs," with a large head and a "fearful look". Its legs were described as short and thick, with widely-spread paws armed with claws almost the length of a human finger. Its name was in reference to its almost totally hairless body, except on the hindlegs, where the hair was very long. It had a terrifying, loud roar.

It was regarded as very dangerous, and they supposedly killed many Indians, especially women and children working outdoors. The only way to escape from it was to leap into water. It also killed, and supposedly ate, other animals including bears and livestock.