Manataka American Indian Council











There are only about 400 of them left in the world  

The Tsimshian people believe in the legend of Moksgm'ol - the spirit of the rainforest. It is said that Creator, the Raven, decided to create a reminder of when the world was once covered with ice and snow. To do this, he was said to fly among the black and brown bear people and turn every tenth one white. He decreed that these bears would live in peace and harmony forever.

Until the turn of the century, Moksgm'ol lived in virtual isolation, known only to the Tsimshian people. As change began to invade the untouched rainforests of British Columbia, the secret of Moksgm'ol slowly became known. Most settlers that inhabited the north coast one hundred years ago, laughed at the idea of a 'spirit' bear and although a white pelt would show up occasionally at fur trading posts, it  was commonly believed to be a misplaced polar bear. To one, however, the thought of the polar bear being twenty three hundred kilometers away from its known range was too far of a stretch. W.T. Hornaday, a naturalist from the New York Zoological Society, launched an investigation to discover the secrets of Moksgm'ol, the spirit of the rainforest.

Hornaday spent several years in the backwoods of British Columbia's north coast in search of the elusive white bear, which in his opinion, was a new species-awaiting discovery. The possibilities for discoveries seemed endless in this wild new land. In 1905, Hornaday announced the discovery of a new species and named the bear Kermode, after Francis Kermode, the director of the British Columbia Museum of Natural History, who did much of Hornaday's legwork. As a result, Kermode assisted in the study in 1924, providing the outside world, the first view into the life of the Kermode bear, with the capture of a small white cub. However, the more they seemed to learn, the less they actually knew.

As studies began, by scientists other than Hornaday, the results revealed that the Kermode bear wasn't a distinct species, as Hornaday had boldly stated, but not an Albino either. It was, in fact, a genetically unique subspecies of the North American black bear, which for unknown reasons, occurred only in one small corner of the world, in one small corner of British Columbia.

The Spirit Bear Youth Coalition was established as one of the first youth run environmental organizations with the hope of uniting and giving a voice to youth globally in the quest to save B.C.'s rare white Kermode or spirit bear. We are backed by the likes of Dr. Jane Goodall and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Charlotte Church, and the Kevin Richardson of the Backstreet Boys, while serving as an umbrella organization for thousands of youth and adults alike. Our goal is to see established a large wilderness sanctuary for the spirit bear and to ensure its place in B.C. and the world for all generations. We feel that it is imperative that youth are given a voice in this issue as we are the future stewards of the land and the decisions being made today will directly affect our future. Youth, after all, represent half of the world's population.

Originally proposed by the Valhalla Wilderness Society, the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition supports the protection of a 249,000-hectare wilderness conservancy to preserve the last intact habitat of the spirit bear. This includes Princess Royal Island, Pooley Island and the adjacent mainland watersheds - the Carter, the Green, the Yule, the Khutze, and the Aaltanhash. The future of the Land of the Spirit Bear hangs in a delicate balance - between the protection of a rare bear, found nowhere else in the world and forestry jobs in a struggling economy. It is the view of the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition that we must be part of the solution in order to preserve the spirit bear and its rainforest home. Thus the intent, aside from preserving the proposed conservancy, is to insure that steps are taken to ensure minimal job loss in the forest industry and that the rights of the local First Nation members are recognized.

 The actions we take today will be our legacy to the future. The Spirit Bear Youth Coalition hopes the protection of the spirit bear will be a legacy of "absolute freedom and wildness" for all generations, for all time.

Where Spirit Bears Live

Spirit or Kermode bears are found only on British Columbia's mid-coast. Rarely, a white bear is reported from other black bear populations elsewhere in North America but these are from different subspecies.

Much of the spirit bear's historic territory is already logged, from River's Inlet at the south end of its range, to the Nass valley in the north, and east up the Skeena River as far as Hazelton. On the mid-coast, large chunks of the islands where the Kermode bears live -- Princess Royal, Gribbell, Roderick and Pooley -- have already been logged. The spirit bear's traditional home is already much diminished. The logging industry has extracted substantial commercial value from the range of the spirit bear. Having some of the ecosystem protected in the newly announced "Spirit Bear Protection Area" is very important. The time has come to protect other intact areas, too. This is why the Valhalla Wilderness Society and others would like to see other spirit bear habitats like Gribbell Island and the Green and Aaltanhash watersheds protected, too.

How Do Spirit Bears Survive in the Rainforest?

Spirit bears thrive in their rainforest home on a diet of green plants, berries and salmon. In the winter, they hibernate in a dry cavity inside giant old trees, protected from howling winter storms. The hibernating bear slowly digests its stored body fat. One amazing thing about spirit bears (and grizzly bears) is that their young are often born in the middle of winter, while the mother bear is still in hibernation. The tiny bear cubs, born blind and defenseless, stay in the den until spring, when the mother wakes and takes them on their first foray into the larger world of the rainforest.

Here are some links to other Spirit Bear sites:


Spirit Bears at Can Stock Photo

Spirit Bear Photography at

Take Action Now!
The Valhalla Wilderness Society needs your help to continue our campaigns. Find out how you can help prevent further destruction of our precious wilderness and wildlife.

Spirit Bear Art Prints at

Courtesy of Valhalla Wilderness Society
Copyright 2003, Valhalla Wilderness Society