Native American Bear Art

Interested in learning about Native American Bear Art? Read on to find out about the meaning and use of bear symbols in Native American art…

The bear occupies a special place in Native American culture. Tribes from different regions assign varying importance and meanings to the bear. The bear finds itself represented in many different forms of Native American art.

Native American Bear Symbols Meaning

It was common to find the bear up on totem poles, drawings, plaques, jewelry and masks in the arts and crafts of the Northwest Native American tribes. In general the bear represented power and strength. However it was also suggestive of learned humility, teaching, motherhood and healing. In some tribes the bear was a symbol of dreaming.

The Native Americans observed the bear to have many human like qualities. This was one of the major reasons why it was so highly revered. This is why the bear is often depicted smiling in Native American bear art so as to signify the friendly relationship between man and bear.

Sacred Native American Bear Art

The bear was regarded as being the master of the forest and they occupied a special place in respect to the fact that they shared both animal and human space. For the Natives, the bear was a sacred animal that had to be protected at all times. Harm to the bear would bring harm to the human society. The gigantic bear human masks made by the Northwest Native American tribes are a testament to this philosophy. These masks can be seen today housed in the Vancouver International Airport Exhibition center.

The Native Americans also attached their own theory to the hibernation habit of bears. They believed that through hibernation the bears would enter the spirit world leaving behind their worldly bodies so that they may revitalize.

The fact that the Native Americans believed that the Great Spirit would take on the form of a bear led to the animal becoming more revered in their eyes. These mythical and somewhat magical creatures were often depicted on religious and ceremonial arts and crafts including totems, dance sticks, ceremonial masks, pottery and baskets.

Native American Bear Tracks

Another feature of Native American bear art was the symbolism attached to bear tracks. The depiction of bear tracks was understood to be a good omen. Hence many women would create house hold functional items bearing the symbol of bear tracks to serve as a good omen. Similarly warriors would have the bear track symbol with them in some form or the other.

One of the reasons that led Native American women to have a special liking for the depiction of the bear in various forms of arts and craft was its protective jealousy over its cubs. The women were solely responsible for raising their children while men did the hunting and protecting hence the women could relate closely to the character of the bear.

The bear was also hunted by the Native Americans. Its hide was used to prepare clothing and its claws to make jewelry. The necklaces prepared by bear claws were believed to carry spiritual powers.

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