Acwsalcta students with Cultural staff Vanessa Hans, Dale McCreary, and Eleanor Schooner. The hide of the bear (pictured on the table) is just one part that will be utilized for cultural purposes.

Acwsalcta cultural staff to use black bear for traditional teachings

The remains of a euthanized bear were donated to the Acwsalcta School for cultural teaching

It’s a common story: autumn comes around, fruit ripens on the trees and isn’t picked, people leave their garbage out and a bear that would normally pass through town without harming anyone becomes a nuisance, and then becomes dangerous.

A conservation officer is called, and despite everyone’s best efforts, the bear has to be euthanized.

That’s usually the end of the story.

In this one, a bit of good came from an unfortunate circumstance when the remains of the bear in question were donated to the Acwsalcta School in Bella Coola to help teach traditional uses for the animal.

After multiple calls to the conservation office’s RAPP line, Conservation Officer Steven Hodgson said he became aware of a black bear that was constantly among the houses in Bella Coola and becoming “heavily habituated to human presence.”

After a dog was hurt by the bear, Hodgson spent some time trying to get the bear to leave a yard with a large fruit tree.

“We were not successful in getting the bear to leave for quite some time,” he said.

For the next week, the bear was continuously in town. People would encounter it in broad daylight; it caused some property damage to a vehicle and even bedded down underneath the porch of an elder, said Hodgson.

The bear also got into a garbage container, accessing non-natural food sources.

At that point, Hodgson knew the bear would not be a fit candidate for relocating, he said, and would have to be euthanized to protect people’s safety.

Hodgson then contacted Vanessa Hans, a Nuxalk culture and language teacher at the Acwsalcta school, to see if someone could use the bear, known as “t’la” in Nuxalk, for traditional medicine.

She, he said, got the ball rolling.

“We get to teach the children the traditional value of the t’la,” she said, and the school plans to use all aspects of the animal that they can in their cultural teachings.

The fur will be tanned at the school by one of the teachers, with participation from the students, and will be used for traditional masks. The skin will be used to wrap a baby for spiritual purposes. The fat will be rendered down and used for medicinal purposes and the claws will be used for medicine bags and medicinal bundles, she said. If the meat is still good, the traditional foods teacher will also use aspects of that.

All will be used to help teach the students the methods and traditional uses for the bear.

In addition, when Hodgson presented the bear to the school, he talked with students about the importance of managing attractants in the community in order to prevent further conflicts with bears.

“Bears are always going to be in the community of Bella Coola. They are always going to transit through, it’s just the type of habitat we all live in. But, the bears, if they don’t gain access to food in our areas than they are not going to remain in those areas. They will simply pass on through,” he said.

In return, the students are now offering to go around and glean fruit from trees if residents can’t or don’t want to pick it themselves.

“As unfortunate as the situation is, there is some good that came of it, and we had an education component,” said Hodgson.

“It provides a great reminder to the community: this particular part of the regalia is a bear that was killed in conflict with human beings and its a great reminder to everybody all the time that this is what happens if we don’t manage our attractants and behave properly within the community.”

Hans, in addition to helping coordinate using all aspects of the bear, is creating a video of the different teachings being done with it that she will bring to the elders who still speak the language to translate the conversation that has taken place around the bear.

“We can teach the children the language as well and put out a message to our own people and our people in the whole community for that matter about making sure there are no attractants for the bears to come in,” she explained.

For his part, Hodgson said there is no excuse for not getting rid of attractants in the area.

“There are so many opportunities in the community right now for people to utilize for attractant management programs,” he said. “It is our fault that the bear is there.”

Just Posted

Bill passes to make Sept. 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation statutory holiday

Residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad and CRD Area F director Joan Sorley were in Ottawa for the vote

Wally Webber elected to fourth term as Nuxalk Chief Councilor

Webber took the win with 174 votes out of a total of 389

Bella Coola expected to be hottest spot in B.C. today

Temperatures are predicted to rise to 18 C

B.C. minister says rural internet is ‘railroad of the 21st century’

Jinny Sims talks details about the $50-million provincial and possible $750-million federal funds

IT’S OFFICIAL: Mt. Timothy sale complete

New owners looking toward year-round mountain resort facility

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

2 fires in Victoria caused by cigarettes prompts warning from deputy fire chief

Two separate fires caused by cigarette butts were avoidable

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Most Read