Maidu Bear Dance needs some help

$920 of $5,000 goal

Raised by 12 people in 25 months
Bill Rathbun  BERKELEY, CA
The annual Bear Dance has been the most important cultural event among northern California Indian tribes since prehistoric times. In some years multiple Bear Dances have been hosted by various tribes and families, some more regularly than others The Lassen Yah-Mon-Nee Maidu Bear Dance is the oldest continuing Native American cultural celebration in Lassen county, California.
Now the Bear Dance needs some more financial support to continue. It costs  $3000-$5000  to provide free food and sanitary facilities for the hundreds of attendees. Much of this has come from bake sales and donations from attendees, but it not been enough. In recent years I have provided more than $1000 annually to keep this important tradition going. My friends who attend also have given what they can afford. Now I am unemployed/retired and can no longer provide this level of support. We need the help of friends.

For information on the Honey Lake Maidu Bear Dance, vist www.HoneyLakeMaidu.org especially the page www.honeylakemaidu.org/BearDance.html

The annual  Lassen Bear Dance was revived in 1953 by Gladys Mankins, a woman of Maidu and Paiute heritage who continued the traditions taught to her by her mother Kitty Joaquin. Gladys ran the Bear Dance regularly on the second weekend in June at her small ranch near Janesville, California with the help of family, friends ,volunteers, and small donations from the attendees. Governor Jerry Brown came to the Bear Dance twice during his first terms as California governor – once, arriving in a helicopter with much fanfare, and the next time more discreetly in a private automobile.

The Bear Dance is a renewal ceremony, and represents the beginning of a new year, a time for all people to come together, to make peace not only with the most dangerous animals in their environment – the bear and the rattlesnake – but also to make peace with one another. All people are welcome. The event includes traditional dances and  hand games held throughout the weekend of the event. Dances have included both public and sacred dances by groups with similar traditions, including Maidu, Pit River, Pomo and Wintu tribes. In the early years, before the revival of native dance traditions among the California tribes, ‘fancy dancers’ from the southwestern tribes were invited to share their traditions. Gladys paid the dance groups for their travel expenses from her own small income.

Gladys bore the bulk of the Bear Dance expenses herself by selling off small parcels of her land. By the time she died in 1988 her small ranch had dwindled and had become encroached by development. The Bear Dance continued at this location for two more years, but when her husband died the land passed to his heirs, who wanted to sell the property. Community volunteers from Susanville and as far away as the Bay Area and southern California deemed the site too small to continue holding the growing event at the Janesville location, and a new venue was sought. With much negotiation, an agreement was reached with the U.S. Forest Service to build a new campground at a more remote site west of Susanville near Willard Creek. The campground was made available exclusively for the Yah-Mon-Nee  Maidu Bear Dance ceremonies for two weeks every  year. Since 1990, the Bear Dance has been held annually at this location on the second weekend in June.

As with most (Indian) people, bickering soon developed over who would run the Bear Dance after Gladys died . Ron Morales, a Maidu elder with a long family tradition in the Honey Lake Valley, soon emerged as the only one strong-willed and tough enough to keep the Bear Dance going. Through his efforts, with the help of his family and volunteers, he has kept the Lassen Yah-Mon-Nee Maidu Bear Dance going for twenty four years.

The Bear Dance culminates in a group circular dance at the end of the weekend, but it is much more than a circle dance, as it serves as a center post for many California Indian traditions. Besides the dances, an often overlooked but key part of (Maidu) Indian religion involves the “Hand Game”, a traditional gambling game where the players sing their ancient songs while practicing their psychic power. Hand Game  has been part of Bear Dance  “Big Times” since the first prehistoric Bear Dance. If funding can be found for the major Yah-Mon-Nee Maidu Bear Dance expenses, it is hoped additional donations can be found to support a small hand game tournament, especially to attract younger hand game players who have discovered this tradition.

The Bear Dance has continued operating on a shoestring budget with help from volunteers. The major expense is providing free food for all attendees. Ron’s daughter Lorrie Morales provided significant financial help by selling Fry Bread and Indian Tacos at community events in Susanville, but Lorrie passed away two years ago after a year-long hospitalization for a resistant bacterial infection, and the Bear Dance itself is currently on life support. Only generous donations from attendees have kept the ceremony going. Now, many of those who were able to contribute financially are retired and on fixed incomes and are unable to continue the same level of financial support.
'If you can't afford a quarter then you otta give a dime'.
Thanks all for any help you can provide,
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Update 4
Posted by Bill Rathbun
11 months ago
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Help fund the Handgame Tournament at the Maidu Bear Dance

Hand Games are what really make the Bear Dance feel like what it was like in the 'old days', but in this day and age it takes a tournament to attract some players. The tournament at the Susanville Bear Dance was a big hit last year and I've agreed to guarantee a minimum $1000 pot for a tournament this year. But I need some help. Last year we had a no-entry-fee tourney to attract the young kids and financially-impaired, but several of the teams decided to break up into one or two person teams to maximize their chances, so we're having none of that this year. We'll have a minimum of 2-person teams, and a $20 entry fee. The entry fees will be used to fund a children's game payout held in another tournament after the main games. Watching the young kids play the Stick Game (Handgame) is a real joy! Give what you can afford to support this worthy effort. The Bear Dance has a lot less money this year to meet expenses, so we'll probably only have the free dinner on Sunday. The Saturday meals, if any, will probably be Pot Luck, so if you can't afford donations, bring food or supplies.
If you have money for a bigger donation and need a tax deduction, consider donating through the Mountain Meadows Conservancy ( www.mtmeadows.org), a local 501C-3 non-profit that we are working through to support the Maidu Bear Dance at Susanville.. If you go that route, be sure to earmark your donation, through email to Mountain Meadows, for the Bear Dance.
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Update 3
Posted by Bill Rathbun
22 months ago
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We still need money for expenses.Comanche had to pay $120 more this year for 60 dozen eggs. The cost for sanitation has gone up more than $100. Please give what you can.
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Update 2
Posted by Bill Rathbun
25 months ago
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Thanks so much to all who have contributed so far. Including off-line donations and donations through the Mountain Meadows Conservancy (for those who want/need to contribute through a 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation), we are 20% toward our goal. We need to raise $5000 by around June 1. With friends like all you we will make it happen!
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Update 1
Posted by Bill Rathbun
25 months ago
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Thanks so much Doug for your generous donation. With friends like you we might make it!
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$920 of $5,000 goal

Raised by 12 people in 25 months
Created February 9, 2015
MH
$10
Maggie Hagstrom
2 months ago
RC
$100
robin connor
10 months ago
$20
Anonymous
10 months ago
$50
Anonymous
11 months ago
AA
$100
andrew ahn
11 months ago
VR
$20
Venice Rembold
25 months ago
RH
$100
robin hilpert
25 months ago
$100
Bill Rathbun
25 months ago
RH
$100
robin hilpert
25 months ago
ZD
$120
Zeljko Desivojevic
25 months ago
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