Niiyo-gikinoonowin (four years) ago, my niiji (friend) and I headed to Alaska for my birthday; it was a trip I had bawaazh (dreamed) about for years. We met amazingly miikawaadenim (beautiful) people. We instantly connected and decided to travel together to Mendenhall Glacier. From out of nowhere, a new niiji (friend) said, “ya’ll, there’s three effing bears.” And sure enough, nisiwag makwag (three bears) were crossing the road in front of us. We were all baabaapi (laughing).
When I was recently in Gichi Onigaming (Grand Portage), I saw makwa (bear) prints in the mud around some miskominaatig (raspberry bushes) and it reminded me of that day. That day on Mendenhall Glacier changed my life and led me to pick up my paint brushes for the first time in ashi ningodwaaso-biboon (16 years) when I got back to the lower 48 states—I haven’t stopped painting since. To celebrate that day in Alaska and my niiwo-biboon (four year) anniversary of that life changing day, I completed my newest piece, the largest bear piece I’ve ever painted. It has 1,460 stars on it for every day since that trip.