St’át’imc Grizzly Bear Dancer Shares Her Story

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown March 21st, 2014 Last Updated on: July 1st, 2019

You may have already seen the videos shared online on various YouTube and Facebook pages. A grizzly bear dancer dancing at the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Pow Wow.

Photo by Bert Crowfoot - Aboriginal Day Live 2013

Photo by Bert Crowfoot – Aboriginal Day Live 2013

Or perhaps it was the Kamloopa Pow Wow.

Either way the dance was absolutely mesmerizing. I don't know about you, but I had never seen anything like it in my neck of the woods and was wondering a little bit more about the dance and its origins. I reached out to the dancer in the videos and she was willing to share her story as possibly one of the only female Grizzly Bear dancers in the world. Below is a little bit more about her journey.

The Bear and Who am I?

Laura John was born and raised in Lillooet, British Columbia in the Interior Plateau region, she is of St’át’imc descent. Her St’át’imc name is “Stálhalamcen – Grizzly Paws,” She belongs to the people of Xwisten the Bear Clan. At the age of sixteen, Laura began to relearn the St’át’imc traditions as her passion grew stronger in education, and the heritage of her people became a way of life.

Her education background consists of a Masters of Education in Education Foundation Land Based Education(2011); Bachelor of General Studies Degree Double Minor Linguistics & First Nation Studies(2007); Bachelor of Education Degree in Curriculum Development & Instruction (2007); Professional Development Teaching Certificate (2006); Language Proficiency Certificate (2003); Counselling & Wellness Certificate (2003). Laura was also granted a Language heroes award for the British Columbia Salishan language family. Her educational accomplishments gained were made possible through the balance of traditional and spiritual practices of her St'at'imc cultural heritage.

She is a mother of three children (boys). All three boys carry St’ảt’imc names as their first name and were named through ceremonial practice and the Elders of her family. Laura is a dancer, drummer, singer/songwriter, academic, educator and a language and cultural advocate.

Related Info – Listen to our interview with Laura Grizzlypaws

I would also say she's very inspirational. Watch the speech she gave the crowd at the 2013 FSIN Pow Wow on keeping traditions and languages alive.

So what is it about the bear dance that is so important to her?

The cultural expressions of the St'at'imc are a very important aspect of the St'at'imc with songs, dances and the social interactions of the people. The Grizzly Bear dance is an expression of culture that is unique and authentic.

“I walked where the Grizzly Bear dances. I feel his pleasure, excitement and freedom on the earth and in the wind that carries his messages from the past. I dance where the Grizzly Bear danced his steps leaving an ancestral footprint on the land like a cellular memory in my blood. His face is a shadow that calls to me as the wind calls his name “St'alhalam.” The Grizzly Bear he sings his songs as we unite under his skin. I now walk where he left his ancestral footprints. I heard his prayer, I felt his pain, I am his anger, I am his hope, I am his faith. He now dances upon the earth, now, only where I leave my ancestral footprints.”

I truly believe as Indigenous peoples we should be embracing our traditions, our songs, stories and dances and bringing them to life to instill hope, to have faith and to give thanks for ourselves, while honoring our ancestors and especially to give hope to our younger generations.

Kukwstumckacw – Thank you

Thank you so much Laura for sharing your story with us. I hope we can all see your dance in person some day. For other videos, please visit her YouTube page. Or you can follow her Facebook page.

Home » Native American Articles » Native American Culture » St'át'imc Grizzly Bear Dancer Shares Her Story

About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

TAGGED:    grizzly bear dance    laura grizzlypaws  
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[…] Read article… […]

[…] compare it to for describing would be a regalia headdress with skin. I came across videos of a Grizzly Bear woman doing a bear dance; her name is Laura John and her St’át’imc name is […]

Mark R. Smith

Wow!!! Absolutely mesmerizing. Thank you for the wonderful article

Running Doe

Grizzly Bear dances. I feel his pleasure, excitement and freedom on the earth and in the wind that carries his messages from the past really enjoyed this was wonderful, my relations to all, wado so very much

Running Doe

enjoyed this very much, wado

Louis Youvella

met you at the San Felipe Feast in New Mexico said you were making a cd. wanted to know when it will be out an sre you still going to title it Sayah. Which means grandmother in my language, the Tewa language. Would like to hear from you.


Hey ms. John! Met her through my friend Brock when they briefly dated couple years back when she was his teacher. Bit stuck up and very egotistical, but she can be fun to be around.


It saddens me to hear people complain about anyone who tries to keep culture, ceremony, skills and tradition alive. You speak as though she is doing wrong. Why aren’t you stepping forward to keep these gifts alive so she don’t have to.
As to the lady who gives special rights to creatures of the world. Let her throw off her shoes and belts and purses that come from cattle. Let her not eat the meats that grace her table and watch her reaction.
As to the animals…they have always been our teachers….Learn.


I met her once at kamloopa powwow. Big bragster of her accomplishments and TV time she had. Then she took a selfie with my brother who has Down syndrome then uploaded it with the caption that she loves seeing him and spending time with him because even people with ds can have great stories. We never met her until that moment. Even saying she should have her own category. Inspiration? Yes… But to much success can get to a persons head, as well posting for likes… Speaking with some statimc people, her version of the grizzly dance don’t originate from the statimc traditions.


She just wants the attention (sorry to say) she is my auntie she has made mastakes an this is how she is trying to redo everything by getting degrees she does not need, claiming she can just like that be a grizzly bear dancer, I have heard she is trying to strip part of a land she stays on with no evidence or any type of trails where our ancestors had/have been on, taking advantage of our culture for her own personal use, I have had told her she is being disrespectful to everyone an she had told me an a few others she does not care she has the power to do what ever she wanted, she would get what she wanted, this lady who is my so called auntie is disrespectful,

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