Animal associations

Spirit animal: grizzly bears in the Indian world | Local news

Longtime Missoulian writer and journalist Robert Chaney, reads an excerpt from his book “The Grizzly in the Driveway: The Return of Bears to a Crowded American West”.


In his greetings to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, a man by the name of Standing Grizzly Bear demonstrated the multifaceted perspective that some cultures have towards animals.

People also read …

Standing Grizzly Bear is also known as Joe Durglo, and he is the Director of Tribal Historic Preservation of the Confederate Salish and Kootenai. At the meeting, he greeted the committee with a story of his early days as a game warden.

Durglo worked under Chuck Jonkel from 1977 to 1979 on the Border Grizzly study. He had captured grizzly bears and brought them to Missoula where Jonkel and Carrie Hunt were developing the first successful bear killer. For thirteen years he was responsible for the tribal grizzly bears on the Flathead Indian Reservation – “only bitten once”.

As a youth, Durglo patrolled the reserve’s tribal wilderness for three days in a row, usually solo. Once, heading towards Summit Lake behind McDonald Peak, he climbed a series of rocky switchbacks up the side of a cliff. He heard a grrrrr. A grizzly was descending the same lace.

“My grandfather told me what to do, if you ever meet a bear and have nowhere to run or go,” said Durglo. “He said wait for the bear to charge you.” So I did. And just when he was ready to bite me, I reached into his mouth and grabbed his cock and pulled so hard I pulled him upside down. And he turned around and kept running the other way. “

He added, “I feel a little bad about this. One of these days I’m going to have to sneak up behind him and straighten him up.

At the 2018 IGBC reunion where Durglo told his joke, most of the predominantly white audience was not used to playing pranks on God. A spirituality where other creatures, and even creation itself, can have a holy relationship with humans here and now does not fit comfortably with mainstream American Christianity, where people are on earth and God is in heaven.

The Pew Research Center on Religious and Public Life reports that 70 percent of the United States identifies as Christian, with just 6 percent confessing to “non-Christian” denominations such as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. A fifth of those interviewed said they were not affiliated: either agnostics, atheists or “nothing in particular”.

The number of followers of Native American spiritual traditions is not even included in the survey. But they can play a disproportionate role in grizzly bear country.






A grizzly bear wanders a trail system in northwestern Montana. (photo provided)


Durglo spoke shortly after a representative from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the final rule to remove federal protections from around a thousand grizzly bears in the Continental Divide ecosystem of the north would be released by the end of the year. Days later, officials from the Blackfoot and Confederate Salish and Kootenai tribal governments said they had no intention of meeting the deadline. In addition, the tribes have said that allowing states to hold trophy hunts for grizzly bears was a “twist,” in the words of CSKT Wildlife Program Director Dale Becker.

“It’s not just the biology related to species recovery here,” Becker said. “The wider public thinks strictly of wildlife. But grizzly bears are a cut above almost any species on the reserve. They have a role in tribes of considerable cultural, spiritual and ecological importance. Travel all over our country looking at the petroglyphs, and sooner or later the bear appears. He is in our elders’ stories, the stories of our grandparents. He is the guardian of our ancestral lands.

The Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) were among the first stakeholders to recognize and respond to the listing of the grizzly bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. The Tribes have designated ninety thousand acres of their Flathead Indian Reservation as a tribal wilderness, banned grizzly bear hunting, and imposed seasonal closures on popular climbing peaks when grizzly bears congregate there to feed on ladybugs and moths. Yet 2018 marked the first time the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee had held a meeting on reserve lands since the bear received federal protection.

This is important, as the CSKT and Blackfeet tribal governments are active members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, as well as monitoring 2.8 million acres of grizzly bear recovery habitat, more than the entire Grizzly Bear complex. Bob Marshall’s wilderness that forms the heart of the northern mainland. Divide the ecosystem for grizzly bear recovery.

However, the American Indians have been systematically erased from the grizzly history of American colonization. In his influential 1901 essay “Our National Parks”, John Muir observed “that as far as Indians are concerned, most of them died or civilized in unnecessary ignorance.” In the same paragraph, Muir sympathized more with the remaining bears in the parks: “Poor guys, they were poisoned, trapped and shot until they lost faith in their brother.”

American Indians hold a complicated position in grizzly bear recovery. Where mainstream American society had hardly recorded any encounters with grizzly bears until 1805, Joe Standing Grizzly Bear Durglo claims a family relationship dating back ten thousand years, more or less a millennium. He can recite cultural traditions and beliefs regarding grizzly bears that are as relevant and enduring as the Virgin Mary for a Christian or Ganesh for a Hindu. The grizzly appears in his creation-of-the-world stories as Adam and Eve and teaches lessons like Buddha Siddhartha. With a huge difference. Standing Grizzly Bear, and anyone else, can occasionally meet a grizzly bear standing in the trail, the word made flesh.






Robert chaney

“The Grizzly in the Alley: The Bears Return to a Crowded American West” by Robert Chaney


You must be connected to react.
Click on any reaction to connect.