White Bear, Yona, Black Bear: 3 Appalachian Legends

Bear is a compelling character and participant in Appalachian culture and environment. Mythology in cultures sharing an environment with Bear include common themes securing Bear’s popularity as a culture hero throughout time. The archetypal themes include: being a relative of human beings, having medicinal knowledge of plants/roots, shamans, arbiter of food/issues, and guardians of dreams and introspection.

Cherokee and Appalachian cultures are no exception. As the indigenous culture, the Cherokee bring a closeness and knowledge of the Southern Appalachians deeper than any other culture. Their mythology surrounding Bear, Yona, includes insights directly connected to their experience through time. Yona had once been a clan in the Cherokee tribe and chose to leave creating a complex human to animal relationship unique in the Southern Appalachians. The ecology and environment play an intricate part of the relationship between Yona and the Cherokee and is reflected in the myths. The character White Bear, leads Yona’s council and as a medicine bear. This presentation will connect Cherokee myth to Appalachian culture and current issues, through visual information on a poster and interpretive information from myth and research.

The poster will create associations through visual cues and some labels and/or quotations from myths and/or scholarly sources. Symbols and visual representations or observations can often provide more clear information than oral descriptions. This is especially important when discussing myth and connecting specific observational information to details of the myths themselves. Connecting aspects from indigenous culture with modern Appalachian can also be better facilitated with the poster.