The Bear is a well-respected animal for the Coast Salish peoples, and in art the animal often refers to the elders who are the protectors of a community. It is believed that the bear taught ancestors how fish for salmon and harvest berries, and therefore are a symbol of giving strength to families. Often noted in Salish legends, a Mother Bear can be not only gentle and loving with her cubs, but also vicious against threats in order to protect her young. Because of this nurturing essence, it is thought that the Bear can understand human speech and thought.
Andy Wilbur-Peterson (born 1955) is a member of the Skokomish Nation, part of the
Coast Salish peoples of the United States. Wilbur-Peterson is a self-taught artist who studied Salish art pieces made by his great-grandfather, Henry Allen. To continue his ancestors’ traditional ways, Wilbur-Peterson makes his own tools to carve furniture, totems, and bentwood boxes. The artist also teaches younger artists, such as his own daughter, the techniques of drawing and silkscreen printing.