A small portion of the very long and very vast Sycamore Canyon Wilderness.  This particular photo was taken partly down in the very deep canyon.  Normally, Sycamore Creek cannot be viewed from the canyon rim.



Note by Hunter Bear:  This particular post has drawn a flood of  continuing praise.  Here are just a few of many indeed:


"This near-death experience by an authentic American hero--who was deeply involved in the Mississippi civil rights movement among many other principled stands--is so moving that I have to share it with you."

Steven F. McNichols [Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Attorney]
San Francisco, CA 94104-3503  12/21/03


great writing. xo Kass Fleisher  Author of forthcoming THE BEAR RIVER MASSACRE  [Spring 2004]    12/22/03



BILL  [William Mandel]  Activist and author of many books -- including  SAYING NO TO  POWER.    12/21/03


Oh, John!  This is wonderful.  Even with your terrible illness, your strength shines -- blazes, really.  My warmest wishes and gratitude to you and Eldri.  Paz. Clyde   Clyde Appleton, Tucson, a close radical activist friend from the '50s.  December 27, 2003


Having been a subscriber for less than a year, I have very much regretted not having the opportunity to meet this man.  Knowing what I've learned of him through these pages inspires me to let him know that I very much appreciate his contributions and will miss him and his work when he is no longer with us.  My wishes are for his impact to influence my thought world and that of others for many seasons and for his continued strength to continue to be with us for as long as he needs to be.

Marie Jackson  SNCC discussion list  January 6, 2004


ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING!  Dale Jacobson  Poet and scholar   January 23 2004



Maybe the world is out of balance (Koyaanisqatsi?) and you're in balance.  John Salter [Beba]  2/21/05


I sincerely wish you health and a wealth of happiness.

Celebrate Life!

John Grogan  2/22/05
Canadian Rockies bioregion


Thank you for all you have done and will continue to do.  The struggle continues for as long as injustice does, and as long as human life prevails upon this planet and perhaps some other planet in the future.  Our spirits are with you.

Mario Marcel Salas  2/22/05
San Antonio, Texas SNCC


From Tiffany:  2/21/05

Wow!  All that I can say is that I'm amazed.  i know you've probably heard
this so much that it's old, but your writing ability is incredible!  I'm
totally blind, lost my sight at two months old, have never been to Arizona,
and yet I saw the places to which you were referring.  I felt that I was
with you as you made that journey.  Then again, what else should i expect
from such an admirable figure as your self?

Hearing of your illness, but more importantly, of the way in which you fight
it every day is truly an inspiration.  As for mind versus body, I too would
choose mind, because without it, I'd consider myself as being nothing.

I'm also very impressed at your Native American heritage, and the way in
which you embrace it.  As a future anthropologist, and even long before
that, I've always loved Native American culture and wanted to learn more
about it...

I also see that your faith and beliefs are strong, and that your memories
are many and your wisdom is much...  As for near-death experiences and
spirits, I believe in both passionately, but not in the neopagan/new age
sense.  I'm what's known as a Hellenic Polytheist, following the religion of
ancient Greece.  After believing in nothing except a higher power until
three years ago, I can honestly say that I understand the meaning and
relevance of faith in one's life, and that I'd never go back.  The gods and
goddesses have brought me closer to humanity, and I have formed a strong and
lasting bond with many of my fellow-Hellenes. (Oddly enough, I, and most of
us for that matter, are not Greek by birth.)

Anyway, I digress.  I wish you well, and pray that your at peace, living and
enjoying the best that life has to offer you, for as you know, even in the
face of tragedy, life is still a blessing.  Let me also say before signing
that I feel greatly honoured to be speaking to someone who has influenced
the world as you have done.  As a lover of history and those who fight
oppression, I find all too often that my heroes are no longer on this Earth
in the physical sense, so it feels good to finally communicate with one who

Blessings and take care,
Tiffany  2/21/05


From Terry:

Dear Hunter Bear
Greetings from Adelaide, South Australia. I lurk on Marxmail and try and make
sense of the world and I just wanted to write and say how much, once again, I
enjoyed reading your piece. I hope you aren't suffering too much. I am sure you
are very loved and valued by your family and in your community. You are a very
special, insightful person, and I am very thankful to have your online
acquaintance. You enrich my life in untold ways.
Terry Goessling



INTRODUCTORY NOTE: As a boy, I shot my huge Coming of Age Bear -- deep in the vast Sycamore Canyon wilderness area in Northern Arizona.  At that point, I then became a man. The fiery spirit of the Bear and its abundantly
fine qualities -- intelligence, courage, stamina, instinct -- are with me always and have served me very well and faithfully on my swift and rocky River of No Return. 


I was suddenly but gently aware that I was standing at the edge of a large
stand of tall, slim jackpine timber.  I was in a very strange half-light
that I had never before experienced.

I dream little -- at least in any recollective sense --  at any time.

But this was no dream of any kind. I had gone to sleep that night in our
'way far up home on the far western edge of Pocatello, Idaho.

I knew precisely where I now was:  several yards from our old and quite
isolated and remote -- and almost roadless -- family hunting  camp on the
very edge of the vast and beautiful Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area
southwest of my hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona. Through eternity, the always
flowing Sycamore Creek continues  to cut at glacial pace -- deeper and

I was looking from the Canyon's east rim directly west: down at the western
slope which then rose sharply to its rim -- in contrast to our eastern area
which had some substantial sloping regions in its upper setting. Then I
looked across that western rim and the widespread cedar plains that
dominated that side.

I looked southwest -- looking over a dozen mountain ranges that stretched
very far off toward the Colorado River -- and the California border.

And then  I was looking south: many, many miles down the Great Canyon into
Sycamore Basin and  its vast, and cedar-sprinkled open reaches -- bounded by
small mountains and high ridges.

And then beyond, directly south into the Verde Valley with its sprinkling of
small towns and scattered, often downright hardscrabble folk.

And then up above the Valley -- up the slopes of Mingus Mountain -- where a
handful of lights signaled the tenacious existence of the once fabulous
copper mining town of Jerome.  It had been a ghost town since the early
1950s -- and it was still legend.

Now the Great Canyon pulled suggestively -- and it pulled south.

And then, suddenly, I knew I was in Borders -- a complex of them.  And I was
also at Choices.

I had to go south -- directly down into the innards of Sycamore and then
southward 'way, 'way through the Canyon -- into the Verde Valley.

I had done that before -- a long time ago.

I was extremely ill with a sudden-striking and mysterious illness called
Systemic Lupus -- and the very worst and  deadly form of that particular
version of the oft lethal disease.  It had struck only a very few months ago:
widespread rashes, fever, extreme weakness, body pain, swelling -- all sorts
of deep disorders. It has no cure.

And the  destructive variant  with which we are dealing -- what my doctors
call "a very serious case" -- attacks and threatens lungs, liver, blood vessels,
kidneys, and a number of other critical organs with a bloody passion.

In less than four months, I've been in the Pocatello mountain hospital three
times -- and  have come extremely close to dying at each  beginning point in
those week long stays.

This Lupus could  and will attack literally Anytime -- with virtually no

Early on, even before Lupus had been specifically diagnosed, our immediate
family gathered to do my Will in my hospital room: Eldri [my spouse of 43
years], myself, Maria [school staff] and her two children -- Samantha [13]
and  our grandson/son Thomas [21], Josie [just graduated from Idaho State in
Social Work].  Our two oldest sons, Beba [John ] a writer; and Peter, a
newspaper editor; each worn to the  bone from travel exertion arrived on
schedule:    Beba had come from Fargo to Lincoln, picked up Peter, and they
had driven a thousand miles to Idaho.

It's the Will of a Native family: solidarity, consensus, communalism.  While
a surprised -- and in some instances discomfited hospital staff  watched and
listened surreptitiously -- we took it point by point.  The family was the
executor committee and could choose its spokesperson when the time came; our
home -- very new, relatively large, big yard area, best view in Pocatello ,
rapidly climbing value -- would remain in the full hands of the family with
Maria authorized to use it throughout her life and the others able to use it
at will;  our big historical and contemporary Native arts and crafts
collection would remain forever in the group and nothing could be taken nor
sold. [Beba subsequently drew up an intricate codicil which provides for
very careful loans to reputable exhibits and institutions; same basically
for my quite large collection of Western American and Western Canadian
radical labor material.]  There is more, of course -- but mostly on a share
and share alike basis.

Once Eldri and I are both gone, and the Will then locks in with total
finality, no changes can be made in any  dimension of it save by bona fide
family consensus.  But it's a very close and tight outfit indeed.

Back home, I typed it up, and all signed via notary plus witnesses.

And Eldri and I did  a Living Will which provides for moderate efforts to

After that there were more very close brushes with Death, twelve physicians,
twenty pills a day.

But before we ended that meeting, Beba raised a final point: looking at me,
he asked, "What do we do with you?"

"Cremation," I said slowly.

"And the ashes?" he continued.

"In the end there's only one place," I said. Heads nodded.

And that  -- our historic and long ago hunting camp, to which as a  Teen  we
had brought the huge
 Black coming-of -age bear which I had a lifelong mandate to kill and did --
is where I now stood.

Now I began walking slowly --- still in half-light -- down the trail into
the Great Canyon.  And there I hoped  to travel all the way down the Canyon
and into and through the Basin to the Verde Valley.

And Jerome glittered on Mingus Mountain.


Jerome, Arizona. July 10, 1917.

Two hundred thugs armed with Winchester 44/40s, pickaxe handles,  and
baseball bats designated themselves a "Loyalty League" with the blessing of
United Verde Copper Company.  The great I.W.W.-led copper strike, [Industrial
Workers of the World -- Wobblies] -- from Butte to the Mexican border -- necessitated by
wartime inflation and static wages, had just begun.  The so-called
vigilantes rounded up 75 key  Jerome strikers in the early morning hours of
that terrible day, beat them badly, placed them in United Verde boxcars, and
took them far westward to Kingman, Arizona on the California border.  When
many tried to return, they were jailed at the Yavapai County seat of

Two days later, on the Mexican border at Cochise County, 1200 strikers and
sympathizers were rounded up by hundreds of Loyalty League vigilantes with
the full backing of the Phelps Dodge Copper corporation and local lawmen --
and taken by boxcars to Columbus, New Mexico where they were dumped in the
desert with neither food nor water.

In the early morning of August 1, 1917 at Butte,  Montana, a major I.W.W.
leader, organizer, and copper strike coordinator -- the Cherokee, Frank H.
Little -- was hideously murdered by gunmen employed by massive Anaconda

Blood dark clouds gathered in the Western copper country where memories are
very long indeed.  They are still there -- now, to this very day.

There was much, much more  anti-labor and anti-radical brutality across the
West -- and eventually the country itself. No one was ever punished for
these atrocities.  And then the Federal government itself rounded up 150
leaders of the I.W.W. quickly convicting them [along with Gene Debs, the
socialist], of the completely spurious charges of "Espionage" and

That was long before my time, of course,  But the historic, always
remembered Jerome Deportation was -- along with the racist brutality and
economic exploitation of Flagstaff and many regional environs -- a key
factor in my own eventual radicalization at  barely 21.


The half-light didn't change -- but I had no difficulty seeing and
navigating. The Canyon was more than 30 miles long, north to south, and I was
taking most of it all the way down to its very end.  But for me now time and distance
were meaningless.

For a few moments, I studied myself.  I was big, very muscular, much hair.
I wore my traditional J.C. Penney wide-brimmed hat, Levis, worn blue Western
shirt,  heavy and steel toed logging boots cut slightly  long ago by a
mis-aimed double-bitted axe blow.  I carried my old 30/30 Winchester lever
action, with its curved butt plate and long octagon barrel.  On my left hip,
I packed a large hunting knife.

And I had energy! -- energy I had not had since the hideous disease had
struck many weeks before.

Almost 50 years earlier, in May 1955, I had taken this very route over a
major junket of several leisurely days. [I know of no contemporary person in
those days -- and maybe even to this day -- who ever made that trip.] I was
a basically healthy kid -- but there were problems.  The Army, in which I
had just served a full stretch --  very honorably by its standards -- had
left marks. I had a brand-new I.W.W.  card.  This was fine by my parents, but
they still hoped [and Mother pushed ] for a "respectable" career to which I
was resistant. That far off trip through Sycamore  -- coming home to my very
special setting -- was in large part to organize my own thinking.

In the course of that Great Trek , I explored some vasty side canyons coming
down off the western rim. I saw ancient Indian ruins in cliff settings --
the location of which I would never reveal.   The entire journey featured
all sorts of wild game -- much of it not afraid of me at all -- and I saw
hundreds of elk antlers, seasonally shed  in winter grazing areas.   At one
point, I saw huge bear tracks -- very fresh -- under Sycamore trees which
had been clawed eight feet or so up.  This was grizzly sign -- even though
no grizzlies were supposed to exist anywhere in Arizona by that time.  At
another point, resting on a knoll above Sycamore Creek,  I heard a noisy
crashing sound coming in toward me through the brush.  I waited.  Suddenly,
a huge jet black long-horn bull emerged noisily, limping from an old wound on
one back thigh evidenced by old lion or bear claw scars.  He drank from the
creek.  When he had finished, I asked him quietly, "How are you doing
today?"  He jerked his head up -- had never, I'm sure, seen a human creature
before -- and looked directly at me.  Then   he turned and plunged back into
the brush.  He was a direct descendant of many generations of purely wild
cattle, stemming from Spanish gold mining operations in the latter 1700s.

Eventually, when the geology had shifted into the Great Verde Fault, I found
rose quartz -- gold-bearing quartz -- but I would never reveal the location
of that, ever.

In due course, at the lower end of the Great Canyon, I emerged into the land
of our two old hermit friends -- Joe Dickson, a  retired hard-rock miner and
Jerry Greaves, a former merchant seaman.  They lived in the Old Packard
Ranch and I spent a day with them, telling what I'd seen.  They were a bit
disappointed that I had not cut the sign of the Lost Spanish Mine, somewhere
in the vastnesses of Sycamore, guarded -- according to legend --  by the
ghost of a black-robed Spanish priest.

And when I soon "came out" in the comparatively "civilized" Verde Valley, I
was  very much together.  Not long thereafter, I went with my family to
Mexico where Dad painted and lectured -- and I spent the month studying that
fascinating nation's radicalism and Native and union movements.  And then to sociology
at the University of Arizona and eventually to Arizona State University --
fine enough.  But almost immediately I  fortunately connected with  radical
and democratic  -- and consistently embattled --  industrial unionism. My
organizing career all over the country in Native rights, labor, civil rights
and liberties, social justice in general,  has been -- no false modesty --
successful.  I still keep going.

Now I was at the bottom of the Canyon, turning south, downward.  Sycamore
Creek's familiar running and rippling and splashing noises were old and
friendly music. And so was everything else I experienced-- almost all of
which I remembered with the most intricate clarity -- as I walked, slowly
but strangely down, down Sycamore, mile after mile after mile. Again, time
and distance meant nothing for me here,  I was extremely happy and I liked
my thinking.

And then I was suddenly  awake -- in my bed on the far western frontier of
Pocatello. It was dawn and the half light was gone. I was weak, utterly weak
and felt generally like Hell.  My one-half Bobcat, Cloudy, nuzzled me,
Eldri was cooking breakfast and my daughter, Maria, handed me a huge cup of
super strong black coffee.

My head, as always was very clear.

"If you had to choose," my newspaper son Peter asked a few days ago,
"between physical health  on the one hand and your thinking and writing
ability on the other, which would you take?"

"My mind always," I replied.

And what I do know is that it's critical to keep fighting -- and to always
remember that if one lives with grace he/she should be prepared to die with

How much time do I have?  Maybe lots, maybe not much.

But I'd like, too,  within the now somewhat narrowed borders of my
canyon-of-life, to help others do some good things as well. Let me know.

In the mountains of southeastern Idaho.   Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]




And then soon, deep down within me, I sensed a kind of stirring, a Change.  I grew stronger, much more optimistic, began to do some walking in the high hills and ridges that immediately overlook our 'way far up home and sprawl ever-upward into mountains.  There are still many challenges with this deadly and mysterious malady -- this predator that has such a strong preference for Natives and certain other groups.  But I look up at the Sun and Sky and Listen to the Wind.

For most of my life, the long and gigantic canyon has always been in my mind and inner being. I realized,  while still very young that when I even briefly and segmentally dreamed of it, important and significant things invariably happened with me soon thereafter.  But now since the Experience, every facet of the Canyon Journey -- every detail I saw of that vasty full and wonderfully intricate and complex corner of the great Creation -- can immediately and vividly be recalled full flow and in total at any point I so wish.

And that is very often.

I have never been afraid of death. I plan to do much more in my life -- much more indeed -- before the eventual trip into the Fog and Deep Canyon, up over the High Mountains, and Far Beyond to the Shining Sun in the Turquoise Sky that glows forever down on the Headwaters of Life. And when that Journey finally comes the great Bear will accompany me.  

And so I keep going, keep fighting. 


(And here is the Link to a closely related Victory piece of 2011-2012 -- Shooting and Killing Lupus: )


Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by NaŽshdoŽiŽbaŽiŽ
 and Ohkwari'
Check out our Hunterbear social justice website:
[The site is dedicated to our one-half Bobcat, Cloudy Gray:
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]