In Shoshoni, grizzly bear is expressed as “a’shi wu da” (Univ. Utah, 2019). The grizzly bear and bears in general have sacred meaning, and significance to many native tribes. As a symbol to many Native Americans, the bear was seen as a free spirit, just as the great wind. Natives noted that the bear has a demonstrated quality of unpredictability; we speak of a creature that is massive in size and peacefully forages in the woods, plains on berries and plants. When the bear is provoked, native Americans witnessed ferocity expressed that could elicit obvious terror. Native Americans have an enormous level of respect towards the great bear because of its power, strength. When tribes honored a warrior, witnessing the bear embodied that exact kind of powerful surge, courage and strength to which every warrior strives to possess. At the same time, the bear was also respected by many tribes for its peaceful disposition (Venefica, 2018)
The Bear Dance
A Shoshone sage once witnessed a site of a clan of bears who were performing what he described as a ritual dance (bear dance). These were not spirit bears, but real bears, in the bipedal position dancing in the sun. The Shoshone sage said this was a “dance of gratitude as well as a prayer for healing and protection of their young.” The Shoshone tribes have instituted their own “Sun Dance” and the bear serves as the central integral figure of this ritual, symbolizing protection, strength and progeny of the tribe (Venefica, 2018)
Growing up in the North Fork
Grizzly bear 104 spent nearly her entire life near Pahaska Tepee in the Shoshone National Forest, the original lodge built by Colonel William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody near the turn of the century. Born around 1982, grizzly 104 was first captured during 1984. Visitors noted that she had her first litter of cubs around the East Entrance of Yellowstone during the spring of 1986. At age 5, she was captured with her cubs, and relocated from around the East Entrance area to the Northern Range (Blacktail) in Yellowstone National Park; she would again be relocated from the Dunraven-Mt. Washburn area to the southern-most section of Yellowstone National Park. Grizzly bears and other ursids have the innate ability to “home” back into their original home area, and that is exactly what 104 did. In 1988 and 1989, she was photographed near Pahaska Tepee, SNF. In 1989, she would have her second litter, 3 cubs-of-the-year (COY). She would rear them and eventually wean, and kick them loose to be on their own in 1991. On May 14, 1991 she was captured at Wilsey’s cabin, North Fork Shoshone, SNF and released on site. On July 24, 1992, grizzly 104 was again captured on the North Fork Shoshone, SNF; again, she was released on site. During 1992, grizzly 104 was observed with 2 COY. She would raise them to weaning age, and kick them during 1994. For seven years, grizzly 104 would roam the landscape around the North Fork Shoshone and East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. We do not have much information on her reproductive habits during this time frame.
Some would say that grizzly 104 was a roadside bear, and that inevitably resulted in her demise. On May 14, 2001, grizzly 104 was struck by a vehicle in the North Fork Shoshone, SNF. At the time, she was accompanied by one yearling cub, who did survive the incident. Grizzly 104 is now on display at the museum in Cody, Wyoming.
1.) Haroldson, M. A., and K. Frey. 2002. Grizzly bear mortalities. Pages 23-28 in C. C. Schwartz and M. A. Haroldson, editors. Yellowstone grizzly bear investigations: annual report of the Interagency Study Team, 2001. U.S. Geological Survey, Bozeman, Montana.
2.) Knight, R.R., B.M. Blanchard, and D.J. Mattson. 1990. Yellowstone grizzly bear investigations: annual report of the Interagency Study Team, 1989. National Park Service, Bozeman, Montana.
3.) Knight, R.R., B.M. Blanchard, and D.J. Mattson. 1992. Yellowstone grizzly bear investigations: annual report of the Interagency Study Team, 1991. National Park Service, Bozeman, Montana.
4.) Knight, R.R., B.M. Blanchard, and D.J. Mattson. 1993. Yellowstone grizzly bear investigations: annual report of the Interagency Study Team, 1992. National Park Service, Bozeman, Montana.
5.) University of Utah, (2019). The Shoshoni Language Project, Shoshoni Dictionary. (https://shoshoniproject.utah.edu/language-materials/shoshoni-dictionary/dictionary.php) Accessed June 10, 2019. Shoshoni Language Project, Salt Lake City, Utah. USA.
6.) Venefica, A., (2018). Native American Bear Meaning-Symbolic Wisdom from the Bear: What is your sign. (https://www.whats-your-sign.com/native-american-bear-meaning.html). Accessed June 10, 2019.
Tyler Brasington is a native born and raised Pennsylvanian, yet proud current Wisconsin resident. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a B.S. in Environmental Science. Currently, Tyler is pursuing his masters in Natural Resources with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He has worked in Yellowstone National Park under the guidance and supervision of Dr. George Clokey and Dr. Jim Halfpenny.
Disclaimer: The information and views expressed on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Interior, US Geological Survey, National Park Service or the United States Government.
The Greater Yellowstone Grizzly Project
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