One time I was hunting. It was sunrise in the spring and I was looking for buffalo, climbing over hills and looking. I came on a bears’ trail. Lots of tracks. I followed them to where the bears stood gathered by a tree, and I watched. They were performing a Sun Dance.
I hid with the wind in my face so they could not smell me. Bears are wicked animals when dancing! If they had seen me, they would have hunted me for miles. They danced in front of a pine tree painted yellow, red, and green. They made four steps forward and four steps backward, all the time they were looking at the pole. They also sang, and their singing was a growling.
They had built a midnight fire there. One of those bears was a puhagant, a medicine man. He made the fire. Bears have puhagant just like people. When they dance they pray for their children. Bears are smart. They act just like a person.
Adapted from Hultkrantz, Belief and Workship.
Giving Voice to Bear, North American Indian Myths, Rituals, and Images of the Bear. David Rockwell.
Some Indian tribes used to dance bear dances, mimicking the movements of real bears. Linked to very important ceremonies, these dances are usually performed only once in a year. Dancers can be wearing bear skins, bear claw necklaces, feathers…
People have told about watching real bears dancing in the wild.