Saturday, October 03, 2015


I was looking for the stories about the old woman killed in her kitchen by a bear she had been feeding.  Instead I found this vid.  

Laura Grizzlypaws in costume

Laura Grizzlypaws carrying her costume

The dancer is Laura Grizzlypaws.  (Laura Blackwolf) Her costume is created from a bear rug with what looks to be mink hides pendant from her arms.  It IS a grizz, judging from the coat, and seems small, like a female, so it fits her.  The head is glued to a standard taxidermy form made of papier maché, a shell, no skull, adapted.  Her dancing is an uncanny imitation of a real bear, but also includes traditional dance steps.

A friend of mine, white, was impressed by the women who literally supported her, the child who ran out with water, the feeling that she was part of the people there.  Clearly, she was at extreme physical limits because of her heavy costume.  Traditional women’s dances are like those of the splendidly arrayed women around her, very poised, almost dancing in place.

In this vid s

She speaks her language but I couldn’t catch what tribe she is.  Maybe Cree. 

“I walked where the Grizzly Bear dances. I feel his pleasure, excitement and freedom on the earth and in the wind that carries his messages from the past. I dance where the Grizzly Bear danced his steps leaving an ancestral footprint on the land like a cellular memory in my blood. His face is a shadow that calls to me as the wind calls his name “St’alhalam.” The Grizzly Bear he sings his songs as we unite under his skin. I now walk where he left his ancestral footprints. I heard his prayer, I felt his pain, I am his anger, I am his hope, I am his faith. He now dances upon the earth, now, only where I leave my ancestral footprints.”

And there’s an “iksokapi”  (Blackfeet for “really good”) Profile at

Tomorrow’s post (I hope) will be a story inspired by the dance in the videos above.   I’m going to try to mix it with reading I’m doing about PTSD.

There are two stories I value that are about female bears.  One comes from “Daughters of Copper Woman” by Anne Cameron, which has just been re-edited to include more material, some of it new and some that had been dropped earlier.  Barbara Anne Cameron is a Canadian novelist, poet, screenwriter and short story writer. Cameron legally changed her name from her birth name, Barbara Cameron, to Cam Hubert and later changed her name from Cam Hubert to Anne Cameron.

Her story is about an Indian woman who was independent and liked to live alone away from her British Columbia village.  Pretty soon she began to have the feeling that someone was watching her go through her day as she moved around with firewood, water, and things to hang up.  So she figured out where the person was watching from and surprised her stalker.  Except that it wasn’t a person -- it was a glossy little black bear who had fallen in love with her.

“I would like to come and live with you,” the bear said.  “I could help you and take care of you.  We would be married. There’s just one problem.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m a female bear.”  The Indian woman looked at the bear and considered.  She was an independent thinker.  Finally, she said, “Well, we’re already different species so I don’t see why our same genders should matter.”

I used this story in a sermon about inclusion in the Seattle University Unitarian Church.  Afterwards I overhead a young man saying to his friend,  “I don’t get it.  There was just a bear hanging around.  So?”

The other is Marian Engel’s “Bear”.  I hope you can overlook the salacious cover (the young man probably would not) and take the story in an open way.  In fact, both stories could be called “queer,” which means not conforming to Victorian expectations.  This story came out of a bet among some Canadian writers who were enjoying a relaxed visit in a bar at a conference.  The men thought it would be impossible to convincingly portray a sex act between a human and a bear.  Engel said it could be done, so they dared her. 

Engel took the bet and the resulting book has been a Canadian classic book ever since.  Her strategy was that a lonely and thoughtful woman had been hired to stay on a solitary island to sort and evaluate an eccentric deceased man’s estate, which includes many books and a chained-up miserable old bear.  She tries to get the bear healthy, which means a lot of feeding, bathing and grooming until it is a physical relationship full of hands-on, haptic knowledge, so the sex is the result of nurturing, an element of love.  It is not an imaginary sex act of penetration featuring a bear’s big penis -- a bear, like a gorilla, has a small penis.

What not to do.

In the real world bears are not so benign.  Recently near Kalispell in a rural area where there are lots of old orchards, exhausted gardens, and people who feed birds, there are people who like to feed bears.  One of them was Barbara Paschke, 85, who died in hospital.   It was unclear how the bear got into her kitchen but it smashed its way out the window.  It was still warm weather, so probably it just walked in an open door. 

Food-habituated bears are being hunted and traps are set.  So far two bears have been killed and both had stomach contents indicating that people were continuing to feed them, in spite of the incident, but neither bear could be connected to the victim.  There were no witnesses to the attack.

This bear is tranquilized.

Food-habituation is a different issue than hyperphagia which is a natural change in bears that prepares them for hibernation by making them crazy-hungry.  The attacking bear didn’t eat the woman but badly mauled her, which suggests that she fought it, the way one might chase out an invading dog.   But it was hyperphagic.

It is illegal in Montana to feed bears, partly because they are hunted for their parts, and it is “baiting.”  People who feed bears for the fun of watching them or because they like the idea of being providers or because it makes them feel in control or because they feel they “own” the bears or are particularly compassionate, are probably acting out the way they relate to people.  Sometimes the consequences with people are just as tragic.

Laura wrapped in her costume.

This is not the world of Laura Grizzlypaws, who knows that respect is also an element of love.  Her way is one of understanding elemental seasonal drives like hyperphagia, which is as strong as meth, and letting animals remain wild.  She doesn’t treat bears as children to be fed.  Rather she dances the bear, becomes the bear.

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