Healing With Bear

Hey all,

A friend of mine put together this short radio story about a 32 year old man that has found peace and healing in tracking black bear. I thought some of you folks here would be interested.

Here is the link to the MP3 radio story:


And below is the written text of the interview:

Take care,


Matt Nelson found a healing home in the woods because he paid close attention to some foraging bears.

For many indigenous people the bear is a teacher. The bear knows the plants and is considered a master herbalist. The bear’s long claws and manual dexterity are well suited for foraging. Earlier this summer, an instructor at the Teaching Drum Outdoor School near Three Lakes met a bear in the woods, along with her cub. Nick Vander Puy from the Superior Broadcast Network reports.

Matt Nelson is thirty two years old. He grew up in northwestern California coastal redwood country. Next to the Pomo Indian Reservation. He was a logger and drug dealer, selling methamphetamine or crank. Most of his friends from that era, he says, are now dead. But he got treatment and has been getting well at the Teaching Drum Outdoor School near Three Lakes.

We walk up a hill into a lush green hardwood forest. Just over the hill is a pristine lake.

“Well, this place is a very special place to me and to others I think. This is where some of us on our quest to leave the dominant culture have come to learn how to be accepted by the mother. And this is where that change happened for me.”

The Teaching Drum Outdoor School instructs students on how to connect with their ancestral selves which for all of us is tribal and attuned to the earth.

“This place is called Nishinaja, which means the place where the old way returns. We’re learning to live like the people who have always lived here….this is where we gather a lot of edible food, plant food.”

When Nelson first encountered Makwa, the bear, he’d come by canoe and walked up the hill right here.

“And there was someone here already gathering.”

It was a mature bear with her cub. Nelson met face to face with the cub. But the cub bolted off to the north about a hundred feet.

“So I got to sit and watch and see what they were eating and how they were eating. Not only did Makwa show me a plant but they showed me how to eat in the woods.So valuable. It was kind of a shock I was in my own little world.”

The sow didn’t know what was going on. When the cub stopped running he stood up and was sniffing. The cub drifted off. For awhile Nelson watched the sow grazing.

After the bear moved on Nelson went back to camp for a buddy to help track the bear through the woods. The green lushness was splayed apart where she walked through.

“What was she eating? She was eating this plant. I call it bear carrot. The name in the book is sweet cicely.”

The bear just picked a part of the plant.

“And she did this all through this sweet forest. She never killed a plant. I’m sure they do sometime. But his particular time she just picked. Just took a bite and stepped on a third of the plant or something.”

“Taste it. I’d eat it with you, but I’m fasting today….crunch sounds. Powerful plant.”

“Rephrase it again. What are the teachings from Makwa?

“Taking what’s needed. I think what is needed is offered happily by these plants. I really do.”

“I heard of a native elder who said the plants these days are sad because the people aren’t appreciating them and aren’t in relationship with them anymore. And I think that the plants like to serve like we do.”

I’m Nick Vander Puy for the Superior Broadcast Network

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