In Memoriam: Grizzly Protector Don Shoulderblade

On Sunday the grizzly bear lost a great protector: Don Shoulderblade, Northern Cheyenne Sun Dance Priest and Keeper of the Sacred Buffalo Hat.

Shoulderblade founded GOAL, Guardians of Our Ancestors’ Legacy, in 2013 to stop the stripping of Endangered Species Act protection from grizzly bears, who are sacred relatives of the Cheyenne and other peoples. He and his nephew Rain Bear Stands Last unified more than 200 tribal nations in The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration and inspired legal victories in 2018 and 2020 overturning the removal of federal protections.

“It is impossible to articulate in a sound bite the spiritual significance of the grizzly in our culture,” said Shoulderblade. “The grizzly is sacred, an ancient spirit, a great healer and teacher. The grizzly is integral to our traditional spiritual lifeway. We will not stand by in the land of our ancestors and watch grizzlies be blown apart by high-powered rifles and mutilated just to satiate the bloodlust of some rich ‘great white hunter.’”

In 2017 Shoulderblade brought together more than 80 tribal nations from Canada and the United States in ceremony to develop a “Reclamation of Independence and Declaration Opposing Oil Sands Expansion and the Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

“Every time I met Don, I came away inspired and empowered,” said the Center's Executive Director Kierán Suckling. “He will be deeply missed.”

Photo by Holy Smokes! Pham/Flickr