Opinion: Treat bears better at Eastern Cherokee
"As a long time advocate for animal welfare and the rights of indigenous people I took special interest in the recent articles about Bob Barker and the Cherokee bear pits. As a non-member of the EBC (Eastern Band of Cherokee) I have no voice in EBC tribal affairs and therefore respectfully respond as a perspective for the bears in conjunction with the conceptual values of Native American philosophies. Cherokee, NC has evolved to a place of social, economic, and traditional uniqueness and as in all world ventures the EBC has achieved much through trial and error. I urge the EBC to reassess their position on positive bear exposure versus the negative exploitation of bears. I realize Cherokee is a mixed bag of contemporary and traditional influence and that some of the old ways are of unspeakable value and have been respectfully safeguarded by the true practitioners and keepers of Cherokee traditions. However, some of the same shackles and chains that drove the Cherokee and other Native people into submission now cage the innocence of what your people call “Yona tso s da da nv tli” (my brother the bear). I say your people because as a person of French and Indian decent I know my place unlike so many others that have taken self-appointed liberties in fabricating their own tribes, goofy names, outrageous ceremonies and esteemed titles at the cost of the prostituting the rich and beautiful Cherokee culture.

The EBC does not need me nor anyone else speaking for them when it comes to governing themselves but bears and other animals require insiders and outsiders to speak up for them when such blatant abuse occurs. Bears belong in the wild but when unique cases require them to be fostered by humans we should strive to insure the home is conducive to their physical and psychological needs. For anyone to justify the bears bleak existence in the Cherokee bear pits while at the same time claiming the bears are like their children is exactly the reason why we have child welfare laws. I respectfully challenge the Chief and bear pit operator, Mr. Santiago, to spend a 48-hour stint in the bear pit to experience a small taste of the life these bears have been condemned too. I realize these practices have taken place throughout Cherokee for more than half a century but that does not make it right as there were many other unsavory and immoral practices that were once rampant across reservations that are no longer tolerated as the norm due to exposure and a new consciousness."

Get the Story:
Chipa & Ruby Wolfe: Cherokee, North Carolina- Earth Keepers or the Eco-Shams? (The Native American Times 8/31)

Related Stories:
Editorial: Barker, Eastern Cherokees and bears (8/5)
Bob Barker calls for Eastern Cherokee boycott (7/30)
Congressman's wife upset with Cherokee bears (7/29)
Bob Barker to meet with Eastern Cherokee chief (7/28)