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(Pronounced motch'ka moe)

(The Spirit Bear or Kermode Bear)


Some of these photos will link you to other sites pertaining to the Mokgm'ol or Spirit Bear.


The Kermode Bear

The Spirit Bear or Kermode (Kerr' - moe - dee), is a member of the black bear family. However, these bears, although white in colour, are not an albino, but in fact, a colour variation of the black bear. The American black bear belongs to the family Ursidae in the order Carnivora. It is classified as Ursus americanus. The colour variations of the black bear range from traditional black, bluish, blonde and reddish brown (cinnamon).


Twin Bears, by Charles Russell


It is not uncommon to see a picture like this one. A traditional black bear with a Spirit Bear. Sometimes you will see a black cub and a white sow, or vice versa. Or a traditional black with a white chest like a dinner tux. The Kermode bear is not actually a true white in colour, but more a cream colour. These bears are referred to as "Spirit Bears" or "Ghost Bears" and the Tsimshian word is "Moksgm'ol" (pronounced motch'ka moe). The technical name is Ursus Americanus Kermodei, or Kermode Bears, named after Frank Kermode, a past director of the Royal British Columbia Nuseum.

In 1998, Green Peace made a trip to Princess Royal Island which is a Spirit Bear Habitat and on their way, stopped at Klemtu. They spoke with Head Hereditary Cief, ARchie Robinson. He saw his first Spirit Bear as a young boy in Kent Inlet while barbequing salmon as he prepared for the long winter ahead. "The Spirit Bear is one of our sacred animals," he explained. "The logging industry is moving faster into our area. They want to log Prince Royal Island where the spirit bears are, and that area is very sacred to us, because of the bears and because we have special berry picking areas there." WEstern Forest Products has plans to log much of the Spirit Bears habitat over the next few years, mkaing its survival uncertain. At present, there are as few as 100 bears on Princess Royal Island!


Spirit Bear on Fishing Expedition


It is the belief of the Tshimshian people of the Pacific Coast of North America, that moksgm'ol, the white bear was put on the planet by the creator to remind us of the age when much of the land was covered by glaciers. Spirit bears are not albino. Approximately one in ten are white bears and the remainder are black. These bears live only in the northwestern termperate rainforest of coastl British Columbia, Canada. A powerful and yet gentle animal, these extraordinary wild creatures are threatened by the destruction of their habitats from logging.

Concerned citizens from all walks of life are working to save the bear's home: which consists of 265,000 hectares in Spirit Bear Wilderness, to be co-managed with the local Kitasoo Peoples. This rare wilderness site is home to cathedreal groves of Sitka spruce, more than 800 years old. The centre being the southern unlogged two-thirds of Princess Royal Island off B. C.'s mid-coast. The actually site encompasses some 150 islands and three mainland vallys, providing the last opportunity to create a fully representative world-class sanctuary for bears of the Pacific Coast. There is enough area on this site for populations of Spirit Bears, grizzlies and wolves.

There is no other park site in the enitre B. C. Coast that affords such unique protection of a wide spectrum of bear habitat, types of rainforest and salmon abundance and diversity. Also protected, would be the endangered Sitka Spruce on both the mainland and the island, as well as large coastal estuaries, rich marine habitats which include Orca whales and porpoises. The forests which the Spirit Bears inhabit, have over many hundreds of years protected the B. C. Coast from violent Pacific storms and frequent torrential rainfall. The old-growth forest is too sensitive to be logged and Spirit Bears, grizzlies, five species of salmon, steelhead trout, marbled murrelets, deer, wolves and numerous other species require the intact forest to survive. The home of the Spirit Bear must be protected from logging, roads, poachers and other threats.


Princess Royal Island and surrounding Spirit Bear habitat



"One day, a little boy asked his father "Why is it that all of the bear people that we have seen are black and brown? why are there no White Bear people?"

To the little boy all the creatures of the woods were a kind of people, and his father replied,

"My son, there are indeed White Bear People. We have learned from our ancestors that in the beginning of time, "Whe-Ghet," the Raven, decided to leave a reminder that once the land was white with ice and snow. To do this he set an island aside to be home of the White Bear People, then went amon the black and brown bears and made every tenth one white, and he decreed that they would never leave this island for here they could live in peace forever."

Somewhere Between, Anthony Carter. Indian Heritage Series. Vol. 1. Hancock House.

Spirit Bears at Princess Royal Island, by Charles Russell