Around here the First Nations people revered the Bear for his strength and learned humility. They are prominently featured on totem poles, sculptures, jewelry, masks and in stories passed from generation to generation as part of their oral tradition.
Bears are considered masters of the forest and their connection to humans is highly respected. When a Bear was killed he was taken to the house of the Chief and treated as a guest of honor. Eagle down was sprinkled on them in a welcoming gesture, dances and prayers were offered to honor and thank the Bear's spirit.
My exposure to this culture both as a boy and now within my family has influenced my appreciation for the Bear. To see one in the woods is good medicine. Harvesting a Bear is a spiritual experience. Respectfully utilizing its gifts (hide, claws, bones) and consuming it pays homage to its spirit and enriches my own. It is a part of hunting that is difficult to explain to those who do not hunt. Hunting isn't about the kill, its about life and living it. I can think of no other venture that more clearly illustrates our connection to and appreciation of nature than hunting. The First Nations people knew it and it is integral part of their culture. Those of use lucky enough to have been exposed that perspective experience hunting in a way that seems as natural and important as breathing.
The artwork posted here was inspired by the original art of the Haida and reproduced here in honor of that nation and the Bear it represents.