Bears Belly

The story of Bears Belly, an iconic figure with an untold story. Explore the Arikara fight for survival.
Bears Belly

Bears Belly is an American folk hero just as much as he is an Indian one and is equal to George Armstrong Custer. His life tells the story of the Indian struggle for survival in a time and place where disease, war, and nature constantly challenged that same life within its boundaries. His is just one story in the archives of Indian history, which conveys a wide array of narratives and accounts of Indian life in the days of American settler encroachment.

Over the course of several posts, we will walk together through Bears Belly’s story of survival and fight for Arikara independence. We’ll see triumphs and failures, contradictions and double-dealing, and hope and life. Most of all, we’ll understand the time and people involved in the forming of this nation. And hopefully, we’ll gain a better picture of ourselves in the process.

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

Bears Belly: The War Drums Are Stilled
Bears Belly’s story of his fight for the Arikara is just as important to American history as George Armstrong Custer’s story because it tells the Indian version of the tale that Custer’s life told for the settler side.

1.1 To Wipe Away Their Tears

To Wipe Away Their Tears: Bears Belly
Bears Belly and Libbie Custer died around the same time. Their deaths celebrated and marked different things for different people in America.

1.2 Arikara Creation Story Part One

Arikara Origins - Bears Belly
Understanding the Arikara story of creation will help us to understand Bears Belly and the Arikara in their time.

1.3 Sickness and Death

Sickness and Death: Bears Belly
This is a continuation of the Arikara creation story told at Bears Belly’s funeral, revealing the formation of life as well as sickness & death.
We Are All Related: Bears Belly
💡This is the continuation of the series on Bears Belly. Read the previous entry here. Find the table of contents here. Silence blanketed the ceremony until one woman began to wail loudly inside the lodge once the Kúnúh medicine man told the creation story, ending with Sickness and Death’s

Chapter 2

2.1 A Different World

A Different World: Bears Belly
💡This article is a continuation of Bears Belly’s story. You can read the previous entry here. Much had changed over the centuries since life sprung from Mother’s womb to when Bears Belly sprung from his mother’s womb. People were divided and largely disrespected life. Nearly everyone was fighting

2.2 A Young Apprentice

A Young Apprentice: Bears Belly
As Bears Belly matured, he likely acquired hunting and fishing skills to contribute to the tribe’s sustenance. He would have accompanied the hunters, serving as their assistant by carrying their weapons and supplies. Additionally, he would have prepared meals for the hunters during their breaks. This experience allowed Bears Belly

2.3 Boyhood and the Arikara Lifestyle

Boyhood and The Arikara Lifestyle: Bears Belly
While growing up in the tumultuous era of disease that the Arikara faced, Bears Belly lived the life of an average Arikara child. Bears Belly, as a baby, would have been suspended in the rafters of the earth lodge, wrapped in buffalo and calfskin, observing his family below. Arikara babies

2.4 Enlisting As A Scout

Enlisting As A Scout: Bears Belly
“This young man sits in front of you and will endure great suffering. Look upon him with favor, you and Neshanu, and give him a long and prosperous life.” The old Indian who spoke these words turned away from a buffalo skull and towards a teenaged Bears Belly sitting naked