The Bear Clan

Ani-Giduhwa Intertribal Interfaith Confederation, Inc.
Sackamaxon Nockamixon band Tsalagi (Cherokee)


Ani-Gatogewi (Ani-Kituwa, Ani-Giduhwa, or Keetoowah People, also associated with AniTsa-gu-hi, or Bear Clan) - Were known to gather the wild potato plants in swamps along streams to make flour or bread for food. Hence the name gatogewi = "swamp". The Bear Clan has also been known as the Wild Potato Clan, Raccoon Clan and even mistranslated as  "Blind Savannah". The Clan color for the Ani-Gatogewi is Green and their wood is Birch.

In the beginning, it was said that there were fourteen clans. But some clans would not obey the laws and customs of the people. These clans were considered heathens and were driven out of the nation. The expelled clans formed the tribes now called the Erie, Mohawk, Onodaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Oneida. These people were cousins of the Cherokee, who as a group are called Iroquois spoke a language kin to the Cherokee's, called Irquvian.

One of the clans did not form into one of the tribes, but vanished completely. This was the Ani-Tsaguh (People who-disappeared), which many believe became the bears.


The Bear Clan
Written and researched by Maggie "RedBear"

The bear on the hill top pointed up to the skies
And gave the young visitor some sparkle in his eyes
Giving him the strength to go on
Said now seek the one in the pond (turtle)
Your vision has found a new dawn

Excerpt from The Natural Place by David Black


Bear is a desirable ally and powerful spirit totem, because of man's reverence towards them. Many Medicine Men have adopted Bear as part of their name, since they are thought to have supernatural powers and the ability to heal. Bears, like men, can walk on their back legs, and they tend to eat the same things as humans. Bears use many sounds to communicate: whoofs, sniffs, roars, growls, moans, and meows. All these sounds are "Bear Talk.:" Stories tell of snoring men being mistaken for the sound of bears in the wilds. Bears have been said to attack the tents thinking that another male is inside. One must remember that animals do not always think the same as men.

Bear Clan members are generally leaders within their community and fight for their families best interests.

A Bear has two sides to his personality. On one hand he is curious, cheerful, good-natured, and deliberate. On the other hand, they are quick to anger, because they are sure of their own power, and will defend their family to the death. Bears only enemies are man and forest fires.

In legends of the Animal World, Bear was the head of the Council of Animals, because of his fairness, strength, and courage. There are many stories written about bears killing humans, and many of men turning into bears. Just before the turn of the century, the Alaskan brown bear was all but exterminated on the Alaska Peninsula by hide hunters. The great beast fell victim to hunters who helped supply the royal families and aristocracy of Russia with skins. Old-time hunters living on the Alaska Peninsula told of the hunters in those days taking an average of 20 bears a year. Demand for the hides of the bear fell off in 1899, and hunting of bear ceased for a time. (Kaniut, Larry, Alaska Bear Tales. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 1983, 298)

"The giant brown bear of the peninsula was so abundant at one time that his tribe had worn deep trails, three by three feet, in the tundra, and his masses wore steps and paths in the rocks they passed over "(ibid).. Bear is kin to humans since they can walk upright on their hind legs. The Bear is the largest carnivore. They eat plants, fruit, and meat. Bears are fast and can run about 35-40 mph for short distances. All bears can climb. All bears are fond of honey. Bears know the secrets of plants.

Bear hunting, among aboriginals, was conducted according to complex religious procedures. Ritual appeasement and ceremonial disposal of a slain bear was to have the other bears feel honored.

Up until "the coming of the white man there were basic values that were never violated ... until the Europeans introduced it as a genocidal measure to eliminate the natives, the concept of scalping was unheard of. The concept of hunting and killing an animal solely for its fur was equally foreign to our people. Even among the most fearsome American tribes in Pre-Columbian times, an animal was never killed without giving thanks to its spirit (in prayer), without utilizing its meat in reverence and gratitude." - Ken Carey.


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This page was last updated on 11/23/07.

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