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November 17, 2021

Bear Food for Thought

What is the meaning of the protruding tongue? It is common in the Native Tlingit style of bear imagery. Below is the blue-eyed bear version of the Native bear as portrayed by Alaskan artist Julie Thompson.

There are many cultural meanings to the protruding tongue from just plain silliness to the rude or erotic in western culture. For the Maori People of New Zealand the gesture reflects strength and ferocity as part of their war chant. In Tibet it functions as a greeting and a sign of respect. The gesture is definitely an attention grabbing nonverbal display. A bear’s open maw can be intimidating but with no teeth showing the Bear suggests it can be a gesture of imparting wisdom.

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