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Pomo Bear Doctors, by S.A. Barrett, [1917], at


The Northern Sierra and Plains Miwok called bear doctors sulik müko. These shamans donned, bearskins, but, like their Yuki colleagues, had bears as spirits and exhibited their powers publicly. Like the Yokuts bear doctors, they were thought able to transform themselves bodily into bears.

The Miwok relate how a man was hunting in the chaparral south of the Stanislaus when a bear appeared and asked what he was doing. The Indian replied that he was seeking an arrow lost in a shot at a red-headed woodpecker. The bear led him into its cave, kept and taught him for four days, and sent him home with several bears as guides. A white man, married to an Indian woman, instigated the building of a dance-house to give the bear doctor an opportunity to show his alleged powers. The latter accepted, came, walked into the fire, pushed aside the flaming brands and made himself a bed in the coals, arose after a time unharmed, swam, and resumed his human form.

The Miwok panther doctor was similarly met and instructed by a

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panther. He wore no skin and possessed no power of transformation. He did, however, acquire the panther's ability to hunt, it was thought. In extreme old age he revealed his experiences and then died at once.

It is clear that the Miwok panther doctor is merely a shaman who has that animal as his personal guardian spirit, and that except for his power of transformation and the character of his guardian, the Miwok bear doctor does not essentially differ from an ordinary shaman.

It seems therefore that the institution of the bear doctor has attained its most extreme form among the Pomo.

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