Sun Bear: The Path of Power by Sunbear - Read Online
Sun Bear
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From a childhood spent in the forest of the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, Sun Bear went on to become one of the most groundbreaking and inspiring spiritual teachers of the late 20th century. Far ahead of his time, he founded an inter-racial medicine society of teachers dedicated to sharing with others those lessons of earth harmony which they had learned through their own experience. His vision of the medicine wheel became a worldwide phenomenon that inspired many people to learn more about the earth and all their relations upon her. Almost two decades after his death, Sun Bear's lessons are even more necessary today than ever.
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ISBN: 9781451672398
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Rockefeller Center

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, New York 10020

Copyright © 1983, 1987 by Sun Bear, Wabun,

and Barry Weinstock

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in

whole or in part in any form.

Published in 1987 by Prentice Hall Press

Originally published by Bear Tribe Publishing, Spokane, WA

FIRESIDE is a trademark of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Manufactured in the United States of America

10   9   8

First Fireside Edition 1992

ISBN: 978-1-4516-7239-8 (eBook)

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Sun Bear (Chippewa Indian)

Sun Bear, the path of power.

Originally published: Spokane, Wash.: Bear Tribe

Pub., © 1983.

Bibliography: p.

1. Sun Bear (Chippewa Indian) 2. Chippewa Indians—Biography. 3. Chippewa Indians—Religion and mythology. 4. Indians of North America—Religion and mythology. I. Wabun. II. Weinstock, Edward B.

III. Title.

E99.C6S92    1987    970.004’97    87-19312

ISBN 0-671-76529-9

Book Design: Nimimosha of Gaiagraphics, Spokane, WA


































When we complete the circle, the hoop of the nations will be rejoined, and the great visions of Black Elk, Sun Bear, Sweet Water and others down the ages will be implemented so that, at last, our grandchildren, who are the promised land, may play together in love and harmony on the many planets in the universe; and our Mother Earth will be healed and come to her full glory.


Who is Sun Bear? He is more than a man. He is also a shield that he carries with him, a presence that goes wherever he goes. This shield proclaims him to be Sun Bear, warrior of the rainbow, brother of peace, keeper of the Medicine Wheel. His vision shines forth from his shield and is seen by the people. Those who know him personally are deeply affected by his shield. Those who come to his gatherings are invariably touched in ways difficult to describe except in words like love, healing and unity. His vision is of such quality that it never is devisive, mean, or self-serving. His vision is of the caliber of a great shaman or teacher.

Sun Bear is a rainbow spirit dwelling within a red man’s body. Not only that, but he seems to be many different kinds of American Indian rolled up into one. Hence, he is a representative Indian, as opposed to Sioux, Chippewa, Paiute, Cree, etc. Undoubtedly, his traditional medicine training has much to do with who he is. But he has not been one of those Indians who, like religious fundamentalists, have held unswervingly to his tribal way. His visionary path has led him into the modern world and the contemporary expression of culture known as America. Sun Bear’s vision is not only Chippewa. It is Native American in the broadest sense.

Actually, the human meaning Sun Bear represents is more than just America. It represents the entire human experience. His message is found in every major human religion. The native people of America, and the earth, have always dreamed of peace and unity on the earth, for all people. Sun Bear is a messenger from our sacred ancestors. His message is: We are all one and the earth is our mother. He activates this message by bringing people together, regardless of their color or religious persuasion, to celebrate their oneness with each other and their mother.

As his influence expands, Sun Bear will encounter a good deal of criticism. Much of it will come from other Indians who resent his ingress into the white man’s world. They will accuse him of selling medicine secrets or of cheapening his own traditional ways. These same voices are raised against anyone who consciously chooses to take the risk of bringing good medicine to modern America. Certainly, Indians have reasons to be forever bitter. And as long as there are bitter Indians, there will be guilty white men. Sun Bear seeks to heal this vicious cycle of bitterness and guilt that keeps both down. He does not use band-aids. He uses the simplest and most powerful of all kinds of healing.

The effects of this healing are feelings and emotions, positive in nature, involving deeper respect for and understanding of American Indian ways, and a new, yet did, recognition of the use of ceremony in modern life. Benefits are experienced by all kinds of people who gather to identify with and celebrate the vision of Sun Bear. But the bitterness runs deep. There are some American Indian medicine men who would forever withhold good medicine from the white man, hoping that he will eventually expire in a trap of his own devising. This kind of sorcery is foreign to Sun Bear. It is foreign to his personality. Sun Bear is a practicing warrior of the rainbow.

Steven Foster, Meredith Little

Directors, The School of Lost Borders


"Sun Bear makes full use of the four ‘H’s’ – Humility, Honesty, Humor and Harmony in all of his encounters. The story of these encounters is a warm human document which has a direct and deep impact on the reader. Whether he is a stunt man employed by the leading studios in Hollywood or a model prisoner in Lompoc for desertion during the Korean war, or the organizer of a project to enhance the dignity of his people in Nevada, Sun Bear is one of the bridge builders of the 20th century whose passage through life has altered whole strata of different societies.

"But it is his simple profound teachings and the example he sets of letting his light shine on all around, that makes this book a must for readers and seekers of the new era. Here is the authentic Ring of Greatness.

"I believe this biography of Sun Bear will take its place among the great Twentieth Century classics of American Native literature.

"It is brilliantly written by the only one who could do it justice, Wabun ... along with Barry Weinstock.. With Wabun’s writing skills and bridge building disciplines and her long and close association with Sun Bear, she is the channel those of us who know them both would have joyfully chosen for this work.

Wabun and Barry bring Sun Bear directly to us — the man, the prophet, the healer, the warm-hearted friend. Thousands carry Sun Bear’s teachings in their hearts and try to show them in their lives as they struggle to complete the rainbow circle. Half of this circle is given by the Creator, and we make the other half through the living of our lives. When we complete the circle, the hoop of the nations will be rejoined, and the great visions of Black Elk, Sun Bear, Sweet Water and others down the ages will be implemented so that, at last, our grandchildren, who are the promised land, may play together in love and harmony on the many planets in the universe; and our Mother Earth will be healed and come to her full glory.

Evelyn Eaton



"Sun Bear is one of those few great American Indians who are surviving the so-called civilization of the United States. He is a proud example for the generations to come. He shows our young people how the great people of the American Indians used to live, how they used to be in harmony with nature, how they understood the healing power, and how they taught how to stay healthy rather than to cure illness.

Sun Bear is a great teacher and a good friend. I am proud that I have lived at the same time as this great, warm, loving, and caring person.

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross


The life story of Sun Bear is a living example to every human of a way of knowing and being that is not only inspiring, but also necessary as we approach the year 2000. This is an important and beautifully-written book.

Joan Halifax, Director, The Ojai Foundation



"Sun Bear has very powerful visions, and is one of the only people I know in the world today who is living his visions fully. I sincerely believe that if more people would come into the circle of his vision it would be the saving of the world. I give him, his vision and his books my fullest support. He has been like a grandfather to all of us in the most exalted sense of the word grandfather.

Tom Brown, Jr., Director, The Tracker School



During these times of great change, Sun Bear’s vision seems particularly appropriate. What a pleasure to study with a teacher whose teachings come from a past that proves the problems of today can still be solved with living the simple way. Sun Bear’s life and vision call for a unity amongst people and the earth upon which we live. What a different world it could be if we listened to this man’s teachings, then turned them into reality.

Page Bryant (Bright Bear Woman)


The story of Sun Bear’s life-journey is a fascinating tale — and an important lesson for modern society. He teaches us how to ‘walk in balance on the Earth Mother’ through the wisdom of his Native American traditions presented appropriately for western culture. His medicine power is authentic and hard-won; his caring wisdom is real. Sun Bear is one of the quiet heroes of our time.

John White

author, POLE SHIFT;




So many good people have helped me to walk my path of power over the years that I hesitate to write these acknowledgments. I have a great memory for faces, but a bad memory for names. So my first acknowledgment is to all of you who have helped me, whether or not I remember you here by name. This includes all of those friends, lovers, acquaintances, apprentices, supporters, students, teachers, and detractors who have helped me to become the person that I am today. Thank you all for your contributions, large and small, to my path of power.

Next I wish to thank all of you who have helped me in fulfilling my visions through supporting or being with The Bear Tribe, and through attending and working on the Medicine Wheel Gatherings.

A very special thanks goes to all those people who are now members of The Bear Tribe, or have been in the past, and to those of you who will come in the future. Special thanks to Shawnodese, Wabun, Nimimosha, Raven, Cougar, Yarrow, Elizabeth Davis (Earth Seeker), Michelle Buchanan (Odayinquae), Donna DuPree (Singing Pipe Woman), Casey, Elisabeth Robinson, Ruth Stafford (Blue Camas), Gaia, Simon Henderson (Corn Man), Gail Buckner (Morning Wind), Saundra Crombie (Path Weaver), Cheryl Crombie, Matt Ryan, Erika Verdugo, and Regina Kerr. Also deserving of thanks are the four-leggeds who live with us and help us remember our connection to the animal kingdom.

I want to thank Wabun and Shawnodese for all of the work they did to organize the original Medicine Wheel Gatherings, and Glenn Schiffman for his work with these early Gatherings. Particular thanks to Singing Pipe Woman for all her superb work coordinating the Gatherings we have held since 1983. Thanks also to the people who have been the local organizers for the Gatherings.

I want to thank Shawnodese, Wabun, Odanyinquae, Cougar, Raven, Nimimosha and the Tribe members for all of the work they are doing with my Apprentice Program. I also want to thank all of you who have become apprentices.

I want to thank my uncles for the teachings they bestowed upon me in my youth, and I also thank all of the other Native teachers who helped me learn about my people and their ways.

I’ve been fortunate to know many strong women who have helped me, loved me, and taught me. I appreciate all of you.

Many people around the country have given me much hospitality and kindness throughout the years of my travels. I wish to thank all of you.

This book has taken many years to complete, and has involved quite a number of people. Wabun originally came to the Tribe to write about me. That was in 1972. We have a file drawer full of outlines and early efforts that did not seem quite right to either of us. When my medicine told me that this book needed to be published soon, Wabun suggested that we bring in Barry Weinstock. In the summer of 1982 he came to live at the Tribe for several months. While seminars, vision quests, and apprentice programs were underway, while Howard and Sue Lamb, Nadja Glassy, and other organizational development people were helping the Tribe deal with our rapid growth, Barry taped and typed and brought our early efforts into a coherent whole. After a year more, and several rewritings, we were ready to publish our first edition.

This book has two godparents who were a source of constant encouragement. One of them is Oscar Collier of Collier Associates in New York. Oscar has, at various times, been both agent and editor for us. The other is the late Evelyn Eaton, a great and famous writer, as well as the spiritual grandmother of the Tribe and hundreds of other people. She read the almost-completed manuscript in the last week of her life, and even found the strength to comment upon it in her own hand. Her assistant, Edith Newcomb (Willow Woman) of the Rainbow Bridge (formerly Draco) Foundation, has also been a source of continuing encouragement.

Thanks to all of the Tribal people, especially Nimimosha, Shawnodese, Matthew, Ruth, and Cougar for reading and commenting on the book; and to all of the friends who added their ideas, particularly Glenn Schiffman, Page Bryant, and Morning Star.

Thanks for the book design to Nimimosha, and to Barbara Sailor for her advice.

I wish to thank the following people for their financial support of Bear Tribe Publishing’s first edition of this book: J. Edward Babbington, Margaret Batsel, Adrian and Cher Cairns, Donna DuPree, Carolina Elli-ott, the late Margaret Hawkins, Roberta Hoots, Wes and Judi House, Carl E. Ogren, Rosemary Stratton.

A special thanks to Bill Thompson of Prentice Hall Press. His understanding of the earth, and of our work, were instrumental in bringing THE PATH OF POWER to a wider audience.

As always, I give thanks to the Creator, the Great Spirit, for the gift of life. I give thanks to the beautiful Earth Mother for sustaining my life, and the lives of all of my relations.




Thank you Creator, thank you for my life. Thank you for the Earth Mother, and for all the beauty that I see in the things around me.


The Native man stood naked upon a hill. His long dark hair blew gently in a southwesterly breeze. His face was drawn.

He prayed in the old way.

Great Spirit — he looked skyward — Show me direction; renew my vision. If I have gone wrong, show me what to do. This one has tried, Great Spirit. This one has tried ...

He sank to his knees, his hands clasped over his heart. Show me the way, Great Spirit. Send me a sign.

He kneeled against blue sky; the sun was ready to set. His eyes glistened. He gazed up at the sun, then he glanced to his left, toward the movement that he sensed.

Slowly, from the south, a golden eagle circled. It flew above the hilltop, circled lower and lower, closer to him. He raised his hands and watched the circling bird; it seemed the eagle’s eyes were so close he could see into them, into the soul of this holy messenger.

"Thank you, Gitche Manitou. Thank you for sending brother eagle. What is your will?"

The bird flew even closer; soon, it seemed that their eyes were fused. The eagle circled, circled. The Indian prayed for guidance. He gave thanks for this holy sign; then, the eagle began to fly away. It circled higher and higher, and the man’s face grew pained once again.

The eagle disappeared. The man was thankful for the messenger; yet, the message still eluded him. He knew the eagle looked into his soul, even as he had looked into the bird’s. He prayed again for direction, for another sign.

From the southwest a great cloud materialized and moved towards him. The rest of the sky was clear. The Indian watched as the cloud grew in mass, in height, and hovered in white and dark texture above the hillside. The cloud sailed toward the northeast, and a small puff of it separated off from the rest and started to spin. It whirled faster and faster, and, as the Native watched it, his mind began to spin, back, back, back to the beginning, back to the beginning of the vision that brought him to this time and place.

Like one who is drowning, he saw his life pass quickly before him. It took courage to see all of the joy, the pain, the mistakes, the things done rightly, the people loved, hurt, found, lost — and to know when this review of his vision was complete he would have to come back to this world, and continue on.

The small cloud continued to spin, seemingly caught in a whirlwind of the heavens. It spun like his mind had a few minutes before; then, it separated in two. One piece evaporated into the sky; the other returned to the large cloud. The man knew this was his answer, this was how his vision would go on to fulfillment. His first attempt to form a tribe of medicine teachers who would help to bring balance and harmony back to the Earth Mother, seemed to have failed. He knew now, however, that in time it would succeed.

The man put on his jeans, his cowboy shirt, his black hat, and walked down the hill to his vehicle, a recycled police car he had purchased in Los Angeles. The year was 1971. The place was a hillside above Vacaville, California. The man with the courage to renew and live by his vision was Sun Bear.

Because of his courage he has been called perhaps the wiliest man in America, an Indian who is ten years ahead of all of the others, a saint, and a con man. He has been supported and attacked by notable people of many racial and religious backgrounds. Over the years, some of the same people have been both supporters and detractors, depending upon the political climate of the moment.

I first heard about Sun Bear in California, in early 1971, when I was there researching a book. From what I heard I deduced he was an old Indian medicine man putting together a tribe of people who thought they were reincarnated spirits of Indians from the past. I was at the point in my life when I wanted to find my own spiritual path, and his ideas didn’t sound any stranger to me than the ones I’d been hearing from Hindu, Tibetan, Sufi or Russian mystics. It certainly seemed worth a story. I contacted the Bear Tribe and offered Sun Bear my apartment to stay in while he was in New York City, with the idea of interviewing him while he was there.

I met Sun Bear in the summer of that year when he was travelling across the United States to tell people about his vision and his tribe. I opened my apartment door not to a decrepit old man wrapped in a blanket and leaning on a stick and the arm of an assistant, but to a handsome, virile 41-year-old man dressed in cowboy shirt, jeans and his ever-present black hat. He had more charisma in his big, broken Indian nose, (broken, I was later to learn, by a white man who didn’t like Indians), than most people had in their whole beings. With him was Morning Star, a slender, blond woman, with love beaming from her eyes ... not the big Native man I had expected Sun Bear to have as his assistant and bodyguard.

In that first moment I was hooked, though I wouldn’t admit it for quite a while. This, too, I would learn later, is a very common reaction to meeting Sun Bear. He has a presence that goes right to the core of many people, and begins to shift them, challenge them, shake them from their everyday view of the world. I had not experienced enough people of vision, at that point, to even know what hooked me. I thought I was in love with the man. I didn’t know I had taken the first step toward becoming committed to his vision.

Like a good reporter, I tried to interview him about his past, his ideas, his plans. Like a good sacred teacher, he told me all about his vision, and how it was being fulfilled. He spoke of the earth as though it was a living being. He spoke of the prophecies Native people had about this time of the Cleansing of the earth, when the earth would heal herself of the sicknesses man’s poisons had caused. He had the nerve to tell me how I fit into his vision.

I was frustrated because he wouldn’t cooperate with the interview. I was confused by all of this vision business. I had never read Native American literature or met a living man of vision before, and I just didn’t know how to fit this concept into my world. It didn’t matter to Sun Bear that I felt confusion. His vision showed him where I could fit in, and his vision had me hooked. It was only a matter of time, he knew, before I realized that. He could afford to dance with my mind until I saw my path clearly. While this mental dance went on, he and Morning Star showered me with so much love that my heart felt like it would burst with joy.

I joined Sun Bear and what remained of the Bear Tribe in early 1972, after spending four months in New York finishing up my writing projects, and wondering if I had gone crazy. I was, after all, preparing to give up my comfortable life, my promising writing career, my friends, to move to the wild west and become part of a contemporary vision. The idea of cults wasn’t popularly-known back then, so I and my friends and family wondered just what kind of strange group of people I was becoming involved with. As it turned out, when I came to understand what cults are and how they work, the intellectual/spiritual group I had been with in New York came a lot closer to fitting that definition than the Bear Tribe ever would. It was that New York group that implied I had left the true path of enlightenment to join the Tribe, while Sun Bear or Star never put any pressure on me, but rather, supported me in whatever I felt I should do.

Since 1972 I have been Sun Bear’s student, his apprentice, his medicine helper, his co-author, his confidante, his instructor in certain areas of the white world, editor of his magazine, director of his community and its businesses, and at times, his worthy opponent.

I know Sun Bear as a medicine man, a friend, a teacher, a shaman, a magician, a brother, a father-confessor, a business partner, a man of mystery and a man who eats, sleeps, dreams and burps just like all the rest of us.

During the first few years I spent working with him, I watched everything with the loving eye of a new believer. He showed me how to see the earth as a living being. He taught me how to see the magic of all of her children — the rocks, the plants, the animals, the clouds, the waters — and I wondered how I ever lived before without seeing all of this beauty. I learned about Native American culture, and for a time, rejected my own background as a white, middle-class, educated writer.

I watched Sun Bear enchant thousands of people, and every dog and cat that sniffed at his jeans. I watched him call in the thunder beings, and marvelled at the rain that would follow them. I saw him heal people of broken hearts, divided souls and sick bodies. I watched him exorcise people beset by spirits that belonged elsewhere. And I wondered about the strange scars on his back that would only appear sometimes when he talked about a particular vision.

I was with him when his first attempt at fulfilling his vision failed, and when he began his second, successful attempt at building a tribe of teachers. He came to tell me about his new vision of the return of the ancient medicine wheels, and together, we wrote of this vision, and began the Gatherings that are bringing it to fulfillment. He came to Shawnodese and me to tell us of his vision of lights springing forth on a darkened earth, and together, we have begun the apprentice program that allows living humans to become these lights.

After the first few years, I found my own balance and my own visions, and learned how to incorporate what I was learning from Sun Bear with the lessons I had already learned. I began to realize what a wonderful spirit path I was on, even though I knew it was fraught with danger. I had become, like Sun Bear, a bridge person, one walking between two cultures and looking for the connections that could bring unity and understanding.

Ever since the first European set foot on this continent, this Turtle Island, the white race has been seeking to understand the red race that they mistakenly called Indians. From Rousseau’s concept of the noble savage to Custer’s practice of killing Indian women and children because nits make lice, there has been a veil of mystery and separation between Native Americans and their often ungrateful European guests. That veil still exists today, now kept in place as much by some Natives as it has been, and is retained, by some European Americans. Around that veil, there is and always has been a lot of curiosity, that forerunner of understanding.

The veil hangs heaviest around the Native concepts of medicine and vision. European philosophies would have us believe that Native medicine is comprised only of strange-looking sorcerers dressed in feathers and hides, shaking rattles, making remedies out of snake’s tongues, frog’s legs and other exotic ingredients that either kill or cure the poor ignorant patient. Others have taught that Indian medicine is the work of the devil: evil, undermining, and dangerous to all the civilization that the white man has built. Medicine men have been painted as heartless savages, bound upon a course of human sacrifice, and as ignorant heathens who pray to the rocks and the trees. People of vision are often portrayed as dangerous lunatics.

Because many Europeans were determined to destroy all the medicine people and practices they could, Native people went underground with their medicine. They had no choice. No one wanted to hear what medicine people really knew or practiced; they were killed if the European religious leaders found out that they practiced any medicine at all.

Today, when there are many people from the dominant society who wish their ancestors had listened to the Native medicine people, some Natives don’t want to share those things they still remember, or the visions they are having now.

Sun Bear is a notable exception.

He feels that Native medicine is the correct philosophy for this land which we are living upon, and that if Natives are unwilling to teach the pilgrims upon Turtle Island how to correctly take care of her, there is no one else who can. Knowing the spirits of this land, he follows their direction to share knowledge with others who really want to learn. Thus he fulfills that main function of Native medicine people: that of sacred teacher, one who can communicate with the many realms of reality and bring understanding.

Medicine people (for both men and women served in this capacity) also served as healers of bodies, minds, souls and hearts. They fulfilled the functions of the people that we today call ministers, priests, rabbis, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, psychiatrists, midwives, family counsellors, teachers, masseuses, body workers, meditation teachers, and breath specialists. They also fulfilled some duties we have lost until recently: they designed and carried out rituals and ceremonies that marked the changes in the lives of people and of the planet.

The longer I worked with Sun Bear, the more I came to respect his courage in daring to rend that veil of separation, to say that we all are brothers and sisters no matter what color skin we wear. He tells people we have to learn to come together in love and understanding, in order to heal the earth of the many sicknesses we have given her in our times of separation and arrogance.

His courage has often been tested. I mentioned the time his nose was broken by a white man who didn’t like Indians; a few years after I joined him he came home from a pow wow looking strange. Upon close inspection I noticed his nose looked quite a bit broader. It had been broken again — this time by an Indian who objected to Sun Bear’s working with whites.

Despite declarations of support or communiques of attack, Sun Bear has steadfastly stood by his first vision that told him we must all come together in love and harmony upon the Earth Mother. I’ve never heard him criticize people for their beliefs, or their being. Sometimes he’s objected to someone’s actions, especially actions that hurt other people, but he still manages to love that person with compassion, if not with respect.

The longer I know the man, the shaman, the more I understand that love is the magic he uses and teaches: not merely romantic love, nor tough love that teaches through discipline, nor cold love of abstract humanity, nor love of service that overlooks the individual, but a combination of all these, and more. I have told many audiences that Sun Bear is the most generous-hearted individual I have ever met. He is.

There have been times when that generosity caused him much more pain than pleasure. He is the type of person who not only brings home wounded dogs, cats, snakes and birds, but also wounded humans, often ones that need a lot of healing. His first effort at building a tribe failed because