There’s a Bear in my Freezer, Part 2

I wrote last autumn about a little black bear who got hit by a semi-trailer. I took him home and put him in my freezer. Here is what happened next.

I could never kill a bear; bears to me are the physical form of a sacred guardian who has loved me and kept a watchful eye over me my whole life, keeping me strong and encouraging me (or scaring me!) into living in a good way. When I found that little bear, I knew in my heart that he came to me with a purpose, and I was going to make that purpose count with as much Love as I could muster.

Elder Patrick with some of the youth and helpers.

I had an idea for a ‘bear harvest’, where youth learn about the fur, food, medicine and other gifts that our ancestors receive from the bear, in a hands-on workshop. For me, this event would be an expression of my love for the Spirit of the Bear – a way to show my gratitude for the strength and courage that Bear has given me, time and time again. We would say prayers for the Bear and have a feast in his honor. We would gather together to experience our traditions, gathering up the loose ends of our culture and weaving them whole again.

I started by telling my story to everyone I thought might be able to help! That’s the way to start any project when you don’t know how to start, in my opinion. While this method of problem solving usually works for me, I had a hard time tracking down an elder who could teach about traditional methods for harvesting bears. They didn’t know at the Metis Nation office, or at the Metis Local, nor among my friends in indigenous circles.

I knew from historical accounts that Metis hunted bear for fur, food and medicine. But in Southern Alberta, on the prairie where bears are seldom seen – and in the days where city people rarely hunt – it seems it’s not easy to find a teacher with bear knowledge. Finally I had a message from a friend at the Friendship Centre, who put me in touch with Elder Patrick. Patrick is a Cree elder, and was willing to bring us out to his land to teach us what to do with this little black bear. My excitement over finding Patrick was difficult to describe. With an elder to teach us, I knew we would make it happen!

We set up a date, and I started saving food and gathering supplies. We gathered firewood, food, knives, gloves, tarps, plastic bins, cording, large pots and kettles, fuel, and gifts. We fit it all in the back of our pick-up truck, with a space for Mr. Bear to ride alongside the supplies.

I wanted to present the elder with a blanket, cloth, tobacco and medicines. I put so much care into that blanket, choosing the patterned fabric and finishing the edges with blanket stitch in contrasting color. It was always in my mind that everything should be just right.

Metis Local 87 from Calgary gave a generous donation after hearing our story, paying for the necessary honorarium. (A great big Maarsi to Calgary Local 87! Check them out on Facebook if you can and show them some love.)

Prepping sausages, and berry pudding for the bear feast

Little Mr. Bear came out of the freezer 4 days before the harvest. It was cold outside, but there was nowhere else to thaw him so my husband built a little wooden box to keep him safe in the yard. He was still quite frozen the day before the harvest, I spent the day anxiously cooking stew and adjusting a space-heater near the box, hoping that we wouldn’t have a bear-sicle on our hands in the morning.

There were 8 youth and 4 adult helpers at the harvest. The enthusiasm of the youth was like a small warm fire in my heart. Their expressions of gratitude and wonderment mirrored my own and made me so happy. Every single youth was in there ‘like a dirty shirt’ as the saying goes, getting their hands bloody despite the cold and the powerful bear-smell. I am so proud of these young adults, that they wanted to experience this traditional knowledge for themselves. We connected at that spot in our hearts that only our culture can fill.

Skinning our little black bear.

Elder Patrick directed me to prepare a special plate just for the bear spirit, with salmon and berries, stew and bannock. He lead me through a prayer in front of the fire, I repeating the words after him like a small child.

He told me, ‘now put the plate on the fire,’. I reached forward, but the fire was blistering hot – it was a four-foot high blaze and I couldn’t get my hands closer than a couple of feet because of the intense heat! “Go ahead,”, he looked at me expectantly.

I got as close as a could, and sort of lobbed the plate into the flames. The elder wore a bemused expression, presumably confused at my choice to throw the offering. “Oh,” was all he said.

I blushed from embarrassment. “I’m sorry,” I stammered by way of explanation. ” it’s so hot! Was that rude of me?

No…” he said and gave a half-shrug. We didn’t say anything more about it. I hope the bear didn’t mind too much!

Together, we ate a traditional feast of stew, bannock and berry pudding. Everyone took home a claw, and some took home bear meat to eat.

I was pleased that Elder Patrick invited us back to tan the bear hide in the spring! The little bear skin is back in the freezer now, taking up a lot less space. When, exactly, we’ll be able to get together for hide tanning depends on COVID-19.

If you are interested in helping us with the hide tanning or bear harvest events, we are grateful for donations of money or gifts for the elder, food and helping hands. You can contact me at kalyn@kodiakherbal.com .

Maarsi for listening to my story. Ni nanaskomon!

Metis Sash Loom Weaving – Live & Socially Distanced

Calgary, AB @ Herbal Healing Apothecary

2 Workshops:
Saturday December 12th, 9am-5pm or
Sunday December 13th, 9am-5pm

Immerse yourself in the Story of the Michif People while creating your own sayncheur flayshii (Metis sash) on a locally-made hand loom.

Kalyn Kodiak, Metis Knowledge Keeper (MNA Region 3) brings teachings about the history, ceremony & symbolism of the “arrow-belt” sash. We will provide looms and other necessary supplies to take home with you after the workshop!

We begin with the famous Red River pattern, the acknowledged symbol of the Metis People. Based on the Assomption sashes worn by Red River traders in the 1800’s, this loom-woven pattern is a nod to the courage and strength of our ancestors.

Warping, threading and troubleshooting are an important part of this beginner-level workshop. Everyone is welcome, regardless of culture or background. No previous weaving experience is necessary, we will teach you everything you need to know to make your own custom sash.

This is a social distanced workshop. Please bring a mask to wear in all common areas. Hand sanitizer and plexiglass barriers are provided for your safety. All workshops are limited to 6 people during COVID-19.

Cost: $260 per person, Register Here:

Metis Sash Loom Weaving Workshop

Our cedarwood looms are hand-crafted by a local woodworker and come in a complete kit with rigid heddle, shuttle, double-ended reed hook, patterns and all necessary supplies. If you already have your own hand loom and know how to tie-on for craft-weight yarn, you can bring it along for a discount on your workshop ticket price.

More info: This workshop takes place in Calgary at the Herbal Healing Apothecary, 2410 2 Ave SE. Children 12 years and up can learn to weave, but may require the help of their guardian. All minors must be accompanied and supervised by their parent or guardian.

Registration is done through PayPal or by e-transfer to kalyn@kodiakherbal.com . Once you have paid for your spot, your email address will be added to the list of registered participants. Registered participants receive an info email to their PayPal address 2 weeks before the workshop. You do NOT need a PayPal account to register, you can choose to check-out securely with a credit card by click the grey “Pay with Credit Card or Visa Debit” button. Kodiak Herbal never receives access to your private payment information, just your email address.

Please see accessibility info & our workshop policies here.

Wildcrafting Medicine @ Providence Lane Farms

Wildcrafting & Medicine Making at Providence Lane Farms

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020 @  10am-3pm

Come out to Providence Lane Homestead, just North of Cochrane, for a day spent with Kalyn Kodiak, Metis Knowledge Keeper. Registration below.

Are you interested in sustainable wildcrafting?
Harvesting unique and wonderful wild foods, and turning these historic staples into delicious and useful meals and medicines?
Then come out to Providence Lane Homestead on May 23 for a day spent with Kalyn Kodiak of Kodiak Herbal. We will begin with a guide to safe and effective wildcrafting practices, then explore this beautiful homestead on a foraging plant walk.

Guests will enjoy traditional teas and a fresh, locally-sourced lunch prepared just for this special day.
After the meal, we will prepare a number of herbal remedies using our foraged raw materials.

Participants can expect to learn about traditions of herbal medicine, as well as preparation and preservation basics for wildcrafters. You will leave the workshop with recipes and preparations to use at home, and a renewed appreciation of Alberta’s countryside ecosystems. 

Registration includes: Wildcrafting safety, foraging plantwalk, locally-sourced tea and lunch, herbal preparations workshop, freshly foraged remedies to take home. Petting of the sheep/llamas optional.

$155.00 for a Full-Day Experience

**This button will take you to the PayPal check-out system. You can edit the number of tickets on the next page. Please note that you do not need a PayPal account to check-out, you can use a credit/debit card by clicking the grey button that says “Pay with Credit Card or Visa Debit“.

New workshops are scheduled every few months -please bookmark our visual calendar and check back often to see new experiences. Or, contact Kalyn@KodiakHerbal.com to join the mailing list.

Please click this link to view our workshop & class policies.

There’s a Black Bear in my Freezer

 Here’s the story of how she came to be there:

Steve and I took a day off after our wedding this August, to relax and go hiking in Kananaskis. This is where we saw the bear. She was a young black bear, likely a teenager, and she was sprinting across the highway just in front of us.
No no no no no!“, I cried, but of course bears don’t listen to humans, (and probably shouldn’t, anyway). A semi-trailer in front of us caught the bear on the chin, and she somersaulted under the truck and rolled to a stop in front of our car.
Steve and I were both distraught. He rolled down the window and talked to the bear, saying nice and comforting things. “You’ve been a good bear, you did all the right bear things in your life,” he soothed, “it’s going to be okay.” He would have got out and hugged that bear if I didn’t stop him.


The poor bear of course, was not okay. She was put down by the RCMP officer who arrived 5 minutes later. We said a prayer for her.


Then I asked to keep the bear.


I didn’t know what I intended to do with the bear. It’s a 250 pound wild bear! I’m not a hunter or a butcher. I don’t know what made me ask, I just know I had watched a bear’s life wasted, and I felt it would be a bigger waste to do nothing.
I filled out some paperwork and a few weeks later, I was headed to Canmore to pick up my bear, who was waiting for me in the freezer at Fish and Wildlife.


Coming soon, Part 2 – Kalyn & Steve & the Frozen Bear
#weirdstories#bear#whatsinyourfreezer

Traditional Metis Tree Medicines

Populus (Poplar, Aspen)

Populus is a genus of 25-35 flowering deciduous trees native to the Northern Hemisphere. Common names for Populus include Cottonwoods, Poplars and Aspens. The name Populus (“of the people”)was given to these trees because they are so often planted in public squares and cities.

Properties of populus resin: antiseptic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, tonic, analgesic (pain-relieving), astringent, anti-inflammatory, reduces fever

Balsam Poplar Oil Infusion Recipe

  • Freshly picked or frozen sticky balsam buds 
  • Stable emollient oil (grapeseed, olive, jojoba, almond, and coconut oil are good options)
  • Dedicated resin slow cooker or glass pot

*The slow cooker or pot will be difficult to clean; it is best to use a dedicated resin pot and straining cloth when working with resins.

Put balsam buds in a slow cooker or glass pot and cover with oil. Cook on low heat, less than a simmer, for 1-4 hours.

Strain the oil through a clean cloth, and discard the used balsam buds. Allow oil to cool with a cloth over the top, so moisture can evaporate. Store the oil out of the light in an airtight glass container. Apply to skin as needed for aches, rashes and sores.

Picea (Spruce)

Spruce trees are large evergreen trees from the genus Picea, which contains roughly 35 members. Their needles attach singularly to the branches, and are 4-sided. Spruce wood is used in construction, paper production and to make musical instruments. Spruce pitch is used as a glue in crafting and as a medicine for respiratory infections, arthritis and angina.

Medicinal properties of spruce tips: expectorant, stimulant, antibiotic, contain vitamin C, tonic, pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory

Spruce Tip Syrup Recipe

  • Fresh, soft needles from the tips of the spruce tree, gathered in early spring
  • 1 liter of water
  • 1 liter of sugar

Boil 2 cups of spruce tips in 1 liter of water for 5 minutes, lid on. Strain, retaining the liquid. Add 1 liter of sugar and return the mixture to the stove, on medium heat, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Pour the syrup into glass jars and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Take 1 teaspoon, 1-4 times daily as needed for sore throat.

Rhodiola, My Darling!

Rhodiola is making a come-back this year in my garden! This sweet succulent starlet is one of 4 tiny bundles transplanted late last July.

All of the transplants were seeded from wild rhodiola species growing in the Rocky mountains of Alberta, Canada. They are gathered and lovingly nurtured by Arden from Wild About Flowers, who specializes in native Alberta plant species.  I highly recommend checking out her collection of native species for hardy, hard-to-find native plants.

If you want to know more about my Darling Rhodiola, Queen of the Mountains and personal favorite of mine, you can read all about her healing properties here.

Or, come by my yard in South Calgary and I will show her off in person. I love, love, love my rhodiola !

 

Finger-weaving Interview (APTN)

Kalyn Kodiak, Metis sash weaver and herbalist, spoke with Tamara Pimental of Aboriginal Peoples Television Network about reviving the art of finger-weaving. Click the image below to see the video.