The Native American tribes, many of which believe the bear to be a representation of a deity, revere these mighty animals and have long held them in great esteem, recognising their size, strength, speed and prowess. They understand the behaviour of the bear is extremely complex and believe they are different to the other animals they come into contact with. Because of this long-held admiration, the animal has featured in many a traditional legend.
What Did the Grizzly Mean to Native Americans?
Often seen as the subject of paintings and in jewellery engravings, Grizzly Bears became a symbol of strength to the Indians. The animals stood for many different meanings and were part of several rituals in Native American culture. The Indian Bear Dance was a dance performed to bring back the ghosts of ancestors, but it was also believed that the spirits of the ancestors joined in the dance to assist the bears to relax and fall asleep for their long hibernation. This particular dance preceded the Circle of Life Dance, which was performed around a fire, and the dancing, singing and chanting of lyrics was thought to bring warmth and light while the Grizzly Bears hibernated.
Native American Indians have always had a healthy respect for the bears; they feared them despite hunting them for food, pelt and claws, which they made into jewellery such as necklaces. Because the Native American Indians believed the animal to be so spiritually powerful, the jewellery was thought to bring protection and good health to the wearer.
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