Bear Blend Roots — Is Bear Blend a Native American Owned Company?
Bear Blend Roots — Is Bear Blend a Native American Owned Company?
My name is Anthony Singing Bear. My great-great grandmother was Apache. I feel deeply connected to a spiritual community of Native American musicians, ceremonialists, and activists.
With that being said, I do not identify as Native American. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. It is important to acknowledge where we come from, to be aware of our roots and heritage. My Dad was first generation Italian-American and my Mom was born in Texas. I grew up as a middle class white kid in a very diverse neighborhood.
When I was 16 years old, I was obsessed with philosophy, poetry, world religions, mysticism, counter-culture, psychedelics, music, and backcountry hiking. I picked apart reality piece by piece, leaf by leaf, and felt convinced, early on, that there was something magical about life. Serendipity and coincidence felt more like guidance than chance.
That same year, a friend and I went to the Smoky Mountain National Park for a 7 day backpacking trip through the most remote part of the park. We were caught in a torrential downpour on the second night before we could set up camp. We got lost in the dark and stumbled into what we found out later was an old Native American burial ground. With water-logged packs and a steep rainy ascent before us, we were overwhelmed with exhaustion — ready to give up. At that moment, I looked down at my muddy soggy boots, and right there in the mud, I found a small piece of turquoise carved into the shape of a bear. I picked it up and held it tightly in my hands. It surged with energy and gave me the strength to carry on. I dragged my friend up the hill and set up our tent in the downpour. The next day we found out that some hikers had died in the floods. I held onto that turquoise Bear for years. It was my powerstone.
I know you don’t want my whole life story, but I am getting to the point.
I was a smart kid and graduated University of Oregon with honors when I was 20. And, despite being head-hunted by investment banks, I was driven by spiritual pursuits rather than money. I remember sitting in my sparse apartment trying to figure out what to do with my life, reading the Bible, Upanishads, and the BhagaVad gita. Somewhere along the way, I read a passage from the Buddha about Right Livelihood that talked about always doing the right thing — to make your living in a way that does not cause harm and that is ethically positive.
At the time, every corporate, business-driven pursuit seemed to me ethically negative. So I did the only thing that felt honorable to me at the time — I became an organic farmer. I lived for a year on an organic farm in Oregon and then moved back to Ohio and bought a farm with my brother.
Our farm is in Rutland, Ohio, and that is where I first learned about the vast and endless world of herbs. It turned out that all of our neighbors were medicinal herbalists. We were next door to United Plant Savers and Frontier Herbs research farm. I spent every day for years studying botany and health, making tinctures and herbal remedies, and growing and harvesting organic food. It was there that I met Tis Mal Crow who introduced me to the Native American Tradition of herbal smoking blends. I met Paul Strauss, Seven Song, Rosemary Gladstar, and several other influential herbalists, and I witnessed real herbal medicines in action. That was where I first developed the Original Blend.
My Mother had embraced her Native Heritage during that time and had spent some time working with a Shamanic Woman Circle. On my 23rd Birthday, she came to the farm and said that she had something very special for me. “Let’s take a walk,” she said. We walked for some time until we arrived at the highest point of the farm. Then, in a sort of ceremonial fashion, she pulled out some sage and lit it. She had a hawk feather that she had wrapped with a leather strap and fashioned with a little turquoise bear bead. Then she pulled out this large stone which looked just like any other rock you might find in the woods.
“I went on a Spirit Walk,” she said. A Spirit Walk is when you walk directionless into nature until you feel as if your mind is totally clear from distractions and thoughts. Then, you wait until nature calls you to any object — she found this stone. Then you sort of look closely at that object and let the first thing come into your mind that naturally arises. “I thought of you,” she said. “And I saw how you are the Bear who Sings. So I would like to give you your name — Singing Bear.”
She told me that I would go on a long journey in an effort to help people. That I would climb many mountains and be challenged again and again to do the right thing. And she told me that the Bear would be my guide.
I didn’t just start going by Bear that day. It was a little over the top to go around to everyone who knew me as Tony Beres and say, “Hi my name is Singing Bear.”
Years later, after being visited by a deer in the snow outside of a Teepee, I left the farm to pursue a life of music. I formed a band and of course the natural name that came to me was Singing Bear. It became my stage name.
My journeys really took me into so many realms and realities. I spent time on the Dine reservation and on Hawaiian Sacred Land. I opened for Rusted Root, Michael Franti, and Jason Mraz. I played ceremonial music during more than one Ayahuasca ceremony. I played music on the magical Whale Tours in Maui and did Touch the Earth tour with Harry Riverbottom to save 500 wild horses. I even had the honor of having Dennis Banks, one of the founders of AIM, in the studio to record a special prayer for my song H2O. And during all of this, I always had my smoking herbs everywhere I went.
It was during my first Ayahuasca ceremony in Seattle, Washington that I received a very clear message that I needed to share the herbs with more people. After that, I started carrying much more blend everywhere, and I handed it out on tour and at festivals and parties. Soon I became known for my Bear Blend.
Herbs do not belong to any one culture or heritage. They are a part of every indigenous culture across the globe. Even 200 years ago, herbs were more generally accepted in all of society as treatment for ailments or for recreation. It has only been recently in our human history that pills, extracts, and chemical concoctions derived from plants have become more widely accepted. I am on a mission to remind everyone that plant medicines are our heritage. Everyone’s heritage.
My vision has always been the same, to bring people back into alignment with nature, to connect humans to the deeper awareness that we all are connected to each other and to this earth. I truly feel that it is this inner knowing, this inner connection, that will lead us to save and protect this planet for our future generations.
So to answer this question, no we are not Native American owned. But I am Anthony Singing Bear. And this is the blend that I created. And I am happy to share it with you.
“These herbs are a gift from our Mother to all of humanity and they have a message for everyone. I am here to share their message with you.”
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