Manataka American Indian Council

 

 

 

 

 

BEAR SOCIETY

OF ARKANSAS

 

 

"Bear Society Ceremonies are no longer conducted in public." 

 

The Bear Dance

 

The Bear Society of Arkansas did celebrate the Awakening of the Bear's in the Spring, the Healing Ceremony in the Summer and the Sleep Ceremony at the beginning of winter.  The Bear Society has not conducted public ceremonies since 2006 and are now held in private.  A few guests are sometimes invited on rare occasion.

 

The Bear Dance is an ancient ritual once performed by many nations from coast to coast.  The dance performed here follows the  Cherokee and Southern Paiute and other southern desert traditions.  (We understand that this is the only place east of the Rocky Mountains where this ancient dance is correctly performed.)  

 

The dance begins with the 'calling of the Bears' to the four sacred directions.  The head Wingman tells the story of the great Bear and instructs the Bears who have come to dance. Singers and Drummers then enter the fire circle and begin to tell other stories of the Bear in ancient song. 

 

Wingmen (Bird People) escort the Bears into the fire circle and continually cleanse them throughout the dance.  They also assist in keeping the Bears tame and apart in the event two or more begin to quarrel.  

 

The Bear's dance movements tell intricate stories and prayers as the beautiful rhythmic songs emphasize the strength, courage, beauty and the special healing medicines of the Bear.  An Elder Wingman will narrate the stories and interpret the meaning of various movements and songs.  

 

On occasion, guests who require healing of the mind, body or soul are invited to enter the sacred arbor and interact with the Bears.  Sacred objects and  medicines placed on the fire circle. 

 

Bears, Wingmen, Drummers and Singers fast and perform purification rites before entering the dance arbor. 

 

There are many reasons and purposes for the Bear Dance, some of which cannot be revealed here.  The Dance is generally accepted as a "Healing Ceremony" where miraculous healing of mind, body, spirit and soul have taken place.   Devine and physical energies and cycles are honored with great respect.  At times, these entities become manifest inside the sacred circle.     

 

Schedule and details for participants:  Purification ceremonies are held at dusk for three consecutive nights.  Women wear dresses and men wear cut-offs.  Participants are encouraged to hydrate and fast before arrival.   A separate Purification ceremony is held for visitors and family.  A gourd dance, wolf dance, moon dance and other seasonal and thanksgiving rites may be performed prior to the Bear Dance.   Storytelling concludes the event. Generally a potluck meal follows the Bear Dance.  Participants are encouraged to bring a prepared dish and other food/beverages. 

 

The sweat lodge here follows Cherokee and other traditions as may be the case with the ways of the water pourer.  Alcohol and other drugs are strictly prohibited.   Participants and their family and guests are encouraged not to enter the arbor area before the Ceremonial Bear Dance.

 

                               

 

Currently, there are no qualified Bear Dance Ceremonies conducted east of the Rocky Mountains.   There is one and possibly two small groups who conduct public shows with some of the ceremonial elements of the Bear Dance. 

 

Initiates cannot be appointed by anyone who has not received proper instruction from a qualified elder of the Bear medicine.  Before dancing, initiates must undergo rigorous instruction and walk an honorable spiritual path in life.  Bear Dancers and Wingmen do not volunteer for service, but instead they are called by the Great Mystery to walk a narrow path of service to mankind and all nature at the Creator's will. 

 

Like many bears in nature, Bear Dancers at Manataka do not hibernate.  The spirit of the bear walks with them every day and never sleeps.

 

 


Prayer for My Brother, The Bear
by Chief Dan George

O Great Spirit who listens to all
I speak for my brother the bear.

Make the moon shine softly during
the nights of his childhood
So that the warmth of his mother will
always be in his memory.

Make the berries grow in abundance
and sweetness
So that the vigor of life will strengthen his heart

And the years of old age shall never
be a burden to his body.

Let the wildflowers refresh his temperament
So that his manner will always be carefree.

Give his legs swiftness and strength
So they will always carry him to freedom.

Sharpen the senses of his ears and nose
So they will always keep harm from him.

Let only those men share his path
who in their hearts
Know his beauty and respect his
strength so that he will

Always be at home in the wilderness.
Make men praise life so that no one
needs to feel the shame

That lives in a heart that has wronged.
Then my wild brother, the bear, will
always have a wilderness,

As long as the sun travels the sky.
Oh, Great Spirit, this I ask of you
for my brother, the bear.


 

ORIGIN OF THE BEAR CLAN

 

In the long ago time, there was a Cherokee Clan called the Ani-Tsa-gu-hi (Ahnee-jah-goo-hee), and in one family of this clan was a boy who used to leave home and be gone all day in the mountains. After a while he went oftener and stayed longer, until at last he would not eat in the house at all, but started off at daybreak and did not come back until night. His parents scolded, but that did no good. The boy still went every day until they noticed that long brown hair was beginning to grow out all over his body. Then they wondered and asked him why it was that he wanted to be so much in the woods that he would not even eat at home.

 

Said the boy, "I find plenty to eat there, and it is better than the corn and beans we have in the settlements, and pretty soon I am going into the woods to stay all the time."

 

His parents were worried and begged him not to leave them, but he said, "It is better there than here, and you see I am beginning to be different already, so that I can not live here any longer. If you will come with me, there is plenty for all of us and you will never have to work for it, but  if you want to come, you must first fast seven days."

The father and mother talked it over and then told the headmen of the clan. They held a council about the matter and after everything had been said they decided, "Here we must work hard and have not always enough. There he says is always plenty without work. We will go with him." So they fasted seven days, and on the seventh morning at Ani-Tsa-gu-hi left the settlement and started for the mountains as the boy led the way.  

 

When the people of the other towns heard of it they were very sorry and sent their headmen to persuade the Ani Tsaguhi to stay at home and not go into the woods to live. The messengers found them already on the way, and were surprised to notice that their bodies were beginning to be covered with hair like that of animals, because for seven days they had not taken human food and their nature was changing. The Ani Tsaguhi would not come back, but said, "We are going where there is always plenty to eat.  

 

Hereafter we shall be called Yonv(a) (bears), and when you are hungry come into the woods and call us and we shall come to give your our own flesh. You need not be afraid to kill us, for we shall live always." Then they taught the messengers the songs with which to call them and bear hunters have these songs still. When they had finished the songs, the Ani Tsaguhi started on again and the messengers turned back to the settlements, but after going a little way they looked back and saw a drove of bears going into the woods.   

Aho! We Are All Related!

 


Read FULFILLMENT Of The HOPI BEAR CLAN PROPHESY


 

GIFTS OF THE BEAR

TRACKS IN ANCIENT PAST, MIGHTY PAWS UPON THE SHORE

HEIR TO GIANTS OF THE CAVE, GRANDFATHER OF FOLK LORE

 

KINDRED SPIRIT OF THE HUMAN, HONORED AS ELDER

SENSITIVE TO NATURES CYCLES, WISE, SOLITARY DWELLER

 

MEDICINE BEAR, TEACHER, GUIDE TO THE RIVER OF MEANING

GUARDIAN OF THE GREAT MEDICINE LODGE, POWER OF HEALING

 

EMBODIMENT OF STRENGTH, RAISING HEAD TO SNIFF THE AIR

STANDING HIGH TO CHALLENGE, FIERCE TO A THREAT ON LAIR

 

LEGENDARY PREDATOR, YET TIMID, GENTLE AND TOLERANT

KING OF THE WILDERNESS, MYSTERIOUS, SUBJECT OF OLDEN CHANT

 

HUNTER, FISHER, FORAGER, CLAWS UPON THE TREE

DOZING IN WINTER, SPRING EMERGE, CUBS BORN, DESTINY

CREATURE OF MYTHS, TALES OF DEEP THUNDER IN EARLY SPRING

BEARS AWAKEN IN DEN, SYMB0L OF RENEWAL, REBIRTH, DESTINY, SING

 

HONORED WITH MUCH RITUAL, DANCES, FEAST FOR BEAR GUEST

REENACTMENTS OF THE HUNT, BRAVE ADVERSARIES IN CONTEST

 

WEARING OF CLAWS, SYMBOL OF COURAGE, SKILLS TO LEARN

MANíS RESPECT FOR THE KILL, PRAYERS FOR BEARíS RETURN

 

BIG MEDICINE, BEAR SPIRIT, BEAR PEOPLE, BEAR CLAN

MASTER OF MY DOMAIN, CELEBRATED IN TALES AND BY ARTISAN

 

STARS OF URUS AMID INFINITE MEADOWS OF HEAVEN,

GREAT BEAR IN SKY

WE GIVE HONOR TO YOU AS RELATIVE AND SPIRITUAL ALLY

 

WANDER MOUNTAINS AND TUNDRA, CIRCLE IN FOREST FREE

TREAD THE EARTH OUR COUSIN, POWERFUL MEDICINE ARE THEE

 

I AM BEAR Ė YOUR FRIEND

By Nakoma

 

 

GREAT BEARS OF THE HEAVENS

Submitted by Rick White Buffalo Dickinson

 

ASTRONOMICALLY SPEAKING

By its area the Great Bear (Ursa Major or by its official abbreviation UMa) is the third of constellations. Its extent is 1280 square degrees, coming after Hydra (1303 square degrees) and Virgo (1294 square degrees). In quantity of stars visible to the naked eye, it shares the sixth rank with Taurus also containing 125 stars. The characteristics of this constellation are numerous.  

 

Various cultures and religions throughout the ages have given this constellation many names and meanings.  Here is but a sample:

 

ARABS - People of the Middle East the Bear constellation was the seven daughters of the great coffin.  The Great Bear was Banat Ennash El Kubra the daughters of the great coffin. Seven girls holding the traditional funeral litter, a kind of stretcher on which the deceased accomplishes his last voyage. Benetnash, the daughters of the strecher. Alkaid, the chief of mourning women.  Sarir, the throne, the bed of girls. Alanak, the nanny-goat of the funeral profession. Funeral symbolism is equally recognized in the star Epsilon named the black horse. The Arabs also gave the Great Bear the name of its main star, Dubb, the bear. Dubhe, the back of the great bear Merak, the bear's kidneys Phecda, the bear's thigh Megre, the root, the beginning of the tail Alioth, the fatty tail Muscida, the muzzle, the mouth.  The Egyptians of THAUT imagined a bull's leg there. It suffices to admire the ceiling of a chapel of Denderah in Egypt.  

 

BABYLONIA - Belus astronomers had imagined a four-wheeled chariot drawn by three horses. They called it Margidda, while the Greeks called it Hamaxa and the Romans Plaustrum.  

 

CHINESE - Fohi Chinese tradition this was the carriage of a heavenly bureaucrat

 

CHRISTIANS - In the Middle Ages, the Christians saw there the coffin of Lazarus followed by three women, Mary, Martha and the Magdalene.  

 

ENGLAND- The test to become an archer in the army of Emperor Charles V, was ability to discern Alcor and Mizar in the sky.

 

EUROPE - 35000 years ago, during the Palaeolithic era, the constellation's shape, due to the star's proper movement, had rather the appearance of a phallus.  Formerly among some tribes, the Great Bear was called the phallus of heaven. 

 

ESKIMO - Among the current Eskimos, the Great Bear is still called Yeh-Ta, the phallus of air.  

 

GREEKS - The Great Bear was likened to a chariot by many and the Greeks named it Hamaxa. Here's the traditional reason: the first sky-gazers who counted the stars of every apparent figure originally called it Chariot and not Bear as among the seven stars the two similar and closest held the place of oxen, five others imitating the outline of a chariot. Consequently the adjacent constellation received, after their decisions, the name of Ox-herd"  The Greeks also called the Great Bear Helike (propeller, spiral) due to its rotor movement around the pole.  Another story has it that the nymphs Heike and Kynosure were the wet-nurses of Zeus. This feat earned them, as reward, to be placed in heaven. The two were called the Bears.  

 

INDO-EUROPEANS - Butta and the Indo-Europeans called the bear with the term 'orks' that can be onomatopoetic of its growl. In the quadrilateral's four stars they imagined a bear, followed by three bear cubs; picture well appropriate to the mentality of a hunting people. With the passing of time the constellation is stretched west and south.  

 

JUDAIC TRADITION - The Old Testament talks of David's chariot referring to the bear constellation.

 

LATIN/ITALY - Latins named these seven stars Septem Triones, the seven oxen turning in rounds in a wheat field. Hence comes the adjective septentrional for anything northerly.   

 

PERSIA (IRAQ) - Zoroaster observers had first noticed the seven brilliant stars resembling a mare, doubtless since the neolithic. It explains every star of the constellation has been carved like a hoof print on certain fossils or fixed boulders. 

 

RUSSIA - The bear has a major importance for Siberian peoples whose religion is called Shamanism; When a bear has been slain, its funeral is held with much pomp in order to propitiate his soul. Most Oriental nations discern a chariot in the Great Bear (or Big Dipper); for the Eskimaux it is a phallos in the sky. 

 

TEUTONS - The Teutons thought the constellation was Thor's chariot

 

VIKINGS - The Vikings said the constellations was the chariot of Odin or Wotan. 

 


 

Bear Warning!


The Colorado State Department of Fish and Wildlife is advising hikers, hunters, fishermen, and golfers to take extra precautions and be on the alert for bears while in the Dillon, Breckenridge, and Keystone area.


They advise people to wear noise-producing devices such as little bells on their clothing to alert but not startle the bears unexpectedly.

They also advise you to carry pepper spray in case of an encounter with a bear. It is also a good idea to watch for signs of bear activity.

People should be able to recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear droppings.  

Black bear droppings are smaller and contain berries and possibly squirrel fur.

Grizzly bear droppings have bells in them and smell like pepper spray.

 

EMAIL          HOME          INDEX          TRADING POST