Wo(men) and Bears: The Gifts of Nature, Culture and Gender Revisited


edited by Kaarina Kailo

408 Pages
October 01, 2008

This book revisists classic debates in feminist, cultural, and Indigenous studies regarding gender, nature, and culture. A collection of essays, poetry, art, drama, and fiction that focuses on the mythological, academic, ethnographic, aesthetic, and socio-historic relations between women and bears by scholars, storytellers, poets, and artists from many cultures and backgrounds. Cross-cultural variants point to traces of powerful but suppressed worldviews where humans and animals are interdependent and equal aspects of the ecological chain of being.

Wo(men) and Bears: The Gifts of Nature, Culture and Gender Revisited

Sima Aprahamian completed her Ph.D. at McGill University in Anthropology. Currently, she is a Fellow at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University in Ottawa, where she teaches anthropology and occasionally women’s studies. Her research interests include cross-cultural gender and ethnic identities, community studies, gender/race/class/sexuality, women and development, social inequality, ideologies, literary criticism, the politics of representation, literary responses to genocide, genocide studies, theories of inclusion and exclusion. Her interest in the bear developed while doing fieldwork research in Armenia.

Susan Bright is the author of 19 books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press (plainviewpress.net), which since 1975 has published 220 books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs, and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh. Her poetry and essays appear regularly on the blog: earthfamilyalpha.

Isabella Colallilo-Katz is a writer, poet, editor, storyteller, psychotherapist, and holistic educator. She leads workshops on personal creativity and writing and has presented at many international conferences. She is the co-creator and producer of the award-winning audiotape for children, Crocket, Carob and Crystals: The C3 Trilogy. Isabella is the author of two books of poetry, Tasting Fire (Guernica, 1999) And Light Remains (Guernica, 2006). She is a co-editor and author of Holistic Learning and Spirituality (SUNY, 2005). Her poetry, articles, and short stories have appeared in magazines, journals, and anthologies. She has given numerous storytelling and poetry performances in Canada and internationally. Isabella teaches Creativity and Creative Writing at Centennial College and Humanistic Psychology at The University of Western Ontario, King’s College.

Maureen Enns is an internationally celebrated artist/photographer and co-author of the national best-selling books, Grizzly Heart and Grizzly Seasons. She is best known for her groundbreaking experimental research concerning human co-existence with grizzly bears in Russia’s Far East. She and former research partner, Charlie Russell, were the subject of the documentary Walking With Giants; according to pbs, the most popular documentary produced on human/animal interaction. In 2001, Maureen left her tenured teaching position at the Alberta College of Art and Design to take on, full-time, the presidency of the Kamchatka Grizzly Bear Research. She and her Russian Associate, Tatiana Gordienko, negotiated an unprecedented agreement with the head of the equivalent of Parks Canada in Moscow to set aside the southern end of the Kamchatka Peninsula for the research of Enns and Russell. She has also been the subject of two CBC television documentaries; Games End (1990); Grizzly Kingdom (1993). Maureen has garnered numerous national and international awards in the visual arts and writing. Currently, she is focusing on the creation of the first wild horse preserve in Alberta to not only preserve an important part of Alberta Heritage but the pristine land these horses occupy. Her new painting, drawing and photography, Wild and Free, was exhibited at Masters Gallery in the fall of 2007. Pyramid Productions Inc. is developing a documentary based on Maureen’s study and art on the wild horses of the Alberta Ghost Forest, titled, “Wild Horses of the Canadian Rockies,” to be released in 2008.

Edwina Goldstone was born and grew up in England, but commuted between Finland and her home country while studying the arts. She fell in love with Finland and moved there in the 1990s. She has just completed an Masters in Fine Arts at the Norwich University of the Arts in England. Her art has been exhibited, among other places, in Finland and Egypt, and will soon be shown in London. As a child, she preferred teddybears to dolls and has always been close to nature and animals—a topic she has focused on in many of her illustrations. She works as a teacher, illustrator and painter in Finland.

Marie-Françoise Guédon is an ethnographer and an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa. With a Master in Anthropology from the University of Montréal, and a Ph.D. on Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, she has lived with and done research with the Dene (also known as Athapaskan) peoples of Canada and Alaska, Mz’abite communities in Southern Algeria, Inuit communities in New Quebec, and Gitksan people in Northern British Columbia. She is presently working with people of the Northern Pacific Coast in Alaska and with ethnic minority communities in China. She is the Director of InterCulture, a centre for intercultural research and training, at the University of Ottawa. She heads the Frederica de Laguna Northern Books, a press dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of information on Aboriginal populations and ethnic minorities of the Northern and circumpolar regions. Her interests include spirituality and shamanic tradition, as well as Canadian and world Indigenous cultures, and the preservation of Indigenous cultural heritage and Indigenous philosophies. She has published extensively on these topics, and brought to them a woman’s point of view. Her last book, Le rêve et la forêt, published by Les Presses de l’Université Laval, earned the Luc Lacourcière Medal, and a nomination for the Governor General Literary Award.

Karen Guilbault graduated from the University of Victoria. She has lived in Nelson, British Columbia since 1991, where she works as a teaching assistant in the senior high school. In the summer she also teaches drama and mask-making classes. She began her artistic career painting Tibetan-style mandalas in gouache and watercolour. From there she began painting the human figure in mystical contexts, surrounded by birds, flowers, and animals. Often, the animals in her paintings have a symbolic significance. Today, she paints similar themes in oil, acrylics, and watercolour, as well as landscapes and still lifes. She shows her paintings locally and sells her work a number of different venues.

A Cree poet who originally hails from Saddle Lake First Nations Reserve, Sky Dancer Louise Bernice Halfe currently lives in a straw-bale house in Saskatchewan. She has published three poetry books: Bear Bones & Feathers was published by Coteau Books in 1994. It received the Canadian Peoples Poet Award, and was a finalist for the Spirit of Saskatchewan Award. Blue Marrow was originally published by McLelland and Stewart in 1998; its revised edition was released by Coteau Books in September 2004. Blue Marrow was a finalist for both the Governor General’s Award for Poetry and the Pat Lowther Award, and for the 1998 Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award and the Saskatchewan Poetry Award. Her latest publication, The Crooked Good, was released by Coteau Books in late fall, 2007. In 2005-2006, she was Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate.

Irma Heiskanen graduated with a Masters in Psychology from the University of Turku, Finland 1984, and has been practicing as a psychologist ever since. Her special interests include the ancient Finnish song-poetry, Finnish culture, and worldview. For the past ten years, she has been developing and practicing Finnish ecopsychology based on Finno-Ugric tradition. She lives with her husband on a dairy farm in the Finnish countryside, next to a Conservation Area and one mile from her closest neighbours. She has been drawing and painting since childhood. She creates her artwork in a “related way” that attends to the needs of those for whom she is making the painting. Her artwork, based on the Finno-Ugric tradition of ornaments and casted bronze figures, will be featured in an upcoming book, Naisten sampo (Female Sampo).

Elina Helander-Renvall was born and lives in Utsjoki, Northern Finland. She is a reindeer owner and artist. She also works at the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland in Rovaniemi as senior scientist and as director for the Arctic Indigenous and Sami peoples research office. In addition to research on the Sami language and culture, she has investigated biological diversity, reindeer herding, Indigenous knowledge, and customary law among the Indigenous peoples of the Arctic. Before coming to the Arctic Centre, she has worked among others, as director for the Nordic Sami Institute in Kautokeino, Norway.

Helena Junttila lives and works in a little village called Aska in Finland, Lapland. She graduated from the Free Art School in Helsinki in 1989. She is one of the best-known artists in Lapland, especially renowned for her artwork on bears, men with horns, and women in the wilderness, symbols for the human mind, strengths, and emotions. Helena Junttila’s work has been shown in several countries, including Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Germany, Spain, Russia, the United States, Australia, and Japan. Visit her website at: www.helenajunttila.net.

Kaarina Kailo holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature (University of Toronto, 1991) and has since held positions in French and in literary and women’s studies (Simone de Beauvoir Insitute 1991-1999); professor of women’s studies, University of Oulu, Finland (1999-2004), senior researcher of the Finnish Academy (2006-2008). She has published over 70 articles on a wide range of topics from feminism and neoliberalism, Indigenous women and anti-racism, the gift imaginary, gendered violence (shameful femicides), peaceful societies to cyber/ecofeminism and women’s spirituality. She has published a book on economic violence, neoliberalism, and healing from violence, Irti talousväkivallasta—reseptejä solidaariseen hyvinvointiin (Emancipating from Economic Violence: Recipes Towards a Solidarity-Based Well-being) (2007), and has co-edited books on postcolonialism and Sami Indigenous people, No Beginning, No End: The Sami Speak Up (in Finnish and English), with Elina Helander (cci/Sami Nordic Institute, 1998, 1999); on ecopsychology and healing, Ekopsykologia ja perinnetieto—polkuja eheyteen (Ecopsychology and Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Paths to Wholeness), with Irma Heiskanen (2006); on North-American sauna stories and the sweat-lodge, Sweating with the Finns, North American Sauna Stories, with Raija Warkentin and Jorma Halonen (Centre for Northern Studies, Lakehead University, 2006); as well as on cyber/ecofeminism and feminist perspectives on folklore and Northern Native women’s issues. Currently she is working on Northern Native and Nordic women’s writings on trauma and healing, and on “Arctic Mysteria.” She is also a grassroots activist in the women’s and peace movement, believing with the “Feminists for a Gift Economy” network that “a radically different world is possible” provided women of all backgrounds form this pro-democracy sisterhood.

Jenny Kangasvuo currently lives in Oulu, in northern Finland. She wrote her doctoral dissertation about Finnish bisexuality at the Department of Art Studies and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Oulu. She draws, writes speculative fiction, and trains aikido and astanga yoga. Visit her website at: www.iki.fi/jek.

A central theme of Ritva Kovalainen’s photography and poetry is the relationship between humans and nature. She has collaborated with Sanni Seppo for the past fifteen years, photographing trees and forests. Their collaborative work explores the spiritual and cultural connotations of mythology associated with the forest as well as modern-day people’s relationship with the forest. Together they have published books, created and exhibited multimedia art, and produced a short film. Visit their website: www.puidenkansa.net.

Jürgen Werner Kremer, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist by training and teaches at the Santa Rosa Junior College as well as Saybrook Institute Graduate School and Sonoma State University. He is the editor of the journal ReVision. He has published on decolonization, Nordic mythology, ethnoautobiography, shamanism, and various issues in transpersonal psychology.

Celine Leduc graduated with a Masters in Religious Studies from Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, with a particular focus on women and religion. For five years she hosted, researched, and produced a weekly radio show dealing with women’s issues for the past five years on CKUT, Radio McGill. She is a published writer and poet, and has performed at Black Theatre Workshop, and Ethnic Origins.

Satu Marit Natunen is a Sami artist living and working in both Inari, Samiland and Helsinki, Finland. She describes her art as “modern ethnic naivism.” Apart from being a Bear woman, she describes herself as Sagittarius. She has worked and at the Atelier de Tissage in the South of France, at Muurla Opisto in Finland, and in Washington, D.C. at Georgetown University. She has also studied in her native Samiland, at the Education Centre (saak) of Inary (1995-1996) where she received her Sami Duoddji-patent. She has held numerous art exhibitions in cities around the world, and has worked in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Equador, India, Malaysia, and Bali, familiarizing herself particularly with the arts traditions and practices of other Native artists. In 1997, she organized an art exhibition in Argentina for the World Council of Indigenous Peoples.

Kirsti Paltto is from and lives in Utsjoki/Ohcejohka, the Finnish side of Samiland. She has written and published in the Sami language since the late 1960s. She has published 19 books including novels, short story and poetry collections, as well as children’s books. She has also written plays and newspaper columns. Her most recent books are Násttis muohtagierragis, the last part of her historical trilogy of Sami life, and Ája, a collection of short stories for youth, both published in 2007 by the Sami publishing house Davvi Girji.

Jordan Paper is Professor Emeritus (Religious Studies) at York University (Toronto) and a Fellow at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria (British Columbia). Raised as an Orthodox Jew, his spiritual understanding radically changed when coming out of a lodge, on completing a traditional four-day fast, an Anishnaabe elder informed him of the sex of Bear, with whom he had had a relationship for several decades, as female. That epiphany not only brought to fruition his functional spiritual life, but led to his later writing the book, Through the Earth Darkly: Female Spirituality in Comparative Perspective (Continuum 1997). His father would not have realized how prescient he was in choosing Dov (Bear) as Jordan’s second Hebrew name.

Mari Redkin is studying to become a teacher at the Faculty of Educational Sciences at Oulu University in northern Finland. Her ecologically-oriented artwork takes various forms, relies on many kinds of artistic mediums, and consists in portrayals of animals, humans, and fantasy figures. She has held several art exhibitions in Oulu and her work is also displayed at www.undefinedart.net.

Ulla Ryum is an Inuit storyteller and playwright from Greenland. She has worked in theatre, in politics, and has taught in several universities. She loves to travel and share the knowledge she acquires from visiting other countries. When she is not visiting Canada, or living in Winnipeg, she lives near the Baltic Sea, south of Copenhagen. She first wrote her play “Annanatsiat” as a short story, which was published in Greenland. In 2007, the play was translated into Kalatlisut, the Greenlandic language. It was presented as a stage-reading in Winnipeg and is currently being developed for a performance in Nuuk, Greenland in the summer of 2008.

Kari Sallamaa is a professor of literature at the University of Oulu, Finland. He has held several academic positions at the universities of Oulu, Helsinki, Tromsoe (Norway) and Vienna since 1980. His research interests include ethnic minority literatures, particularly among Finno-Ugric (Uralic) peoples; northern literatures of the Barents region; Uralic folklore and mythology. He is one of the leading developers and philosophers of ethnofuturism, a cultural and political program aimed at preserving and restoring the national and ethnic consciousness of Uralic peoples. He has published two collections of poems, among them House of the Black Elk (2001).

Sanni Seppo is a photographer whose work has a documentary quality that focuses on society and depicts individuals leading in various social situations. His collaborative work with Ritva Kovalainen explores the spiritual and cultural connotations of mythology associated with the forest as well as modern-day people’s relationship with the forest. Visit their website: www.puidenkansa.net.

Aleksandr Suvorov was born Uvinskoje, Udmurtia. He has worked as senior instructor in drawing and painting at the Department of Design of the University of the Republic of Udmurtia and has held numerous local exhibitions of his art. The bronze cast “Udmurtia 1996” included in this anthology is from the Ugriculture Exhibition 2000, Contemporary Art of the Finno-Ugrian Peoples, Karelia-Komi-Mari-Mordvinia-Udmurt-Hungary-Estonia held at the Gallen-Kallela Museum from May 2000 to January 2002. Suvorov’s bronze works were also exhibited in Finland in 2001 at Lönnström Art Museum and Riihimäki Art Museum.

Christopher G. Trott is an Assistant Professor in Native Studies at St. John’s College, University of Manitoba. He has worked with the Inuit communities of Arctic Bay and Pangnirtung since 1979.

Kira Van Deusen is a professional storyteller and cellist based in Vancouver, Canada. She travelled extensively in Siberia’s forests, tundra, and steppes over 15 years beginning shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, and connected with indigenous traditions, stories, and people. In 2004, Kira travelled in all three regions of Nunavut with filmmaker John Houston recording the legend of Kiviuq from Inuit elders. She performs widely in Canada and beyond and has published several books on Siberian and Inuit culture. www.kiravan.com.

Patricia June Vickers is a doctoral candidate at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Her feast hall status comes from the Gitxaala nation, Laxsgyiik from the House of Gilaskamax. She also has ancestry in the Heiltsuk, Haida, and British nations. She currently resides in Ts’msyen territory in Terrace, British Columbia. [email protected].

In January, 2002, Wacoquaakmik (A. Rodney Bobiwash) passed from our human world to the Spirit world, but the memory of his spirit and courage lives on. At only 42, he lost his battle with that great enemy of Indian people—diabetes. The Bear Clan philosophy guided his life in every way, and in his brief but full life he accomplished more than one might in several lifetimes. He gave his time and knowledge and skills, sometimes even jeopardizing his own safety, for the greater good of all Native people. He spent the majority of his life fighting for Native rights in many roles: as a teacher, advisor, director and speaker. In the mid 1990s, he was one of only two non-lawyers appointed by the Ontario government as an Adjudicator with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. He was the key figure in two successful human right proceedings against hate crimes, resulting in the silencing of the Heritage Front (a neo-nazi hate group) in Toronto. He also served as a member of the Toronto Mayor’s Committee on Race Relations, co-chaired the Ontario Joint Aboriginal Anti-Racism Task force, and wrote extensively on issues related to human rights and anti-racist organizing. He was the founder of the Toronto Native Community History Project, and taught in Aboriginal Studies programs at the University of Manitoba, Trent University, and the University of Toronto. He served as Director of First Nations House at the University of Toronto, and Executive Director of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. He worked with Indigenous peoples in Siberia, Indonesia, Vanuatu, Columbia and Mexico and participated in the United Nations Human Rights Commission-Working Group on Indigenous People.

Giving Back – Acknowledgements
Kaarina Kailo

Sima Aprahamian

The Girl Who Married the Bear
as told by Maria Johns

Kaarina Kailo

A Sami Bear Story

Astride the Bear
Karen Guilbault

Karen Guilbault

The She Bear
Isabella Colalillo Katz

Ulla Ryum

A Conversation About Women and Bears
Ulla Ryum and Kaarina Kailo

Of Big Animals, Women and Shamans in Nabesna Country: A Tale of Assumed Identities
Marie Françoise Guédon

hkom, Medicine Bear
Louise Bernice Halfe

The Princess and the Bears
Patricia June Vickers

Myrna’s Vision
Karen Guilbault

Women and Bears: Indigenous Udeghe and Ulchi Traditions of the Russian Far East
Kira Van Deusen

Rásttos and Bear Woman
Kirsti Paltto

Björn-Beret: A Norwegian Bear Story

Running Away With Bears: Armenian Women Transcending Patriarchy
Sima Aprahamian

Eden Bare Poem
Celine Leduc

Bearing Obligations
Jürgen W. Kremer

The Gender of the Bear: Bear Symbolism and the Third Sex Among the Inuit
Christopher G. Trott

Bear Watch
Susan Bright

Bear Woman
Karen Guilbault

The Girl and the Grizzly
Mrs. Angela Sidney

The Warrior Way and the Bear: A Personal Narrative

Chant of the Bear
Kari Sallamaa

Jordan Paper

Her Gift
Jordan Paper

From the Unbearable Bond to the Gift Imaginary: Arch-aic Bear Ceremonials Revisited
Kaarina Kailo

“Váisi,” the Sacred Wild: Transformation and Dreaming in the Sami Cultural Context
Elina Helander-Renvall

Bare on Bear
Karen Guilbault

Dreaming, Bear Spirit, and Finno-Ugric Women’s Handicrafts
Irma Heiskanen

“Baiki”… The Place Where Your Heart Is
Satu Maarit Natunen and Kaarina Kailo

The Cunning Woman and the Bear: A Finnish Bear Story

Honeypaws in Heaven
Kaarina Kailo

Karen Guilbault

Artist Statement: A Testament
Maureen Enns

Contributor Notes


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