A bear is one of the clan markers of the Pillagers. Bears stand as symbols for Fleur specifically, and for the ailing Anishinabe people more generally. Nanapush tells Lulu that she was born on the day the last bear was shot on the reservation, an echo of the dwindling population of native people in addition to the diminishing natural resources of the land. This bear appears drunk at the Pillager cabin as Fleur is giving birth, in another symbol of the threat of alcohol to the native people. When the bear enters her cabin, Fleur finds the strength to push out her child. In that moment, the bear serving as a symbol of her clan and of her need to continue her family line. The shot the bear suffers only gives the bear strength, indicating the way that Fleur grows strong in the face of a threat. When the bear runs away, it leaves no tracks, and so is thought to have possibly been a spirit bear, another symbol of the way the spirit world is actively in conversation with Fleur.
Bears Quotes in Tracks
The thing I’ve found about women is that you must use every instinct to confuse. “Look here,” I told Eli before he went out my door, “it’s like you’re a log in a stream. Along comes this bear. She jumps on. Don’t let her dig in her claws.” So keeping Fleur off balance was what I presumed Eli was doing.
I am a man so I don’t know exactly what happened when the bear came into the birth house, but they talk among themselves, the women, and sometimes they forget I’m listening. So I know that when Fleur saw the bear in the house she was filled with such fear and power that she raised herself on the mound of blankets and gave birth. Then Pauline took down the gun and shot point-blank, filling the bear’s heart. She says so anyway. But she says that the lead only gave the bear strength, and I’ll support that. For I heard the gun go off and then saw the creature whirl and roar from the house. It barreled past me, crashed through the brush into the woods, and was not seen after. It left no trail either, so it could have been a spirit bear. I don’t know.