Bearsun Effect: Why are the Diné obsessed with the man in the bear costume?



A man dressed in a teddy bear costume and wearing kélchí walked through Diné Bikéyah last week.

The man, Jessy Larios, 33, from Los Angeles, in the shash yáázh daane’į́h costume that he named “Bearsun”, for an entire week was greeted by hundreds of Diné who beamed when they have seen.

They took selfies with Bearsun and placed the tá’dídíín on his head; fed Larios and made sure he was hydrated; offered him housing; said prayers for him; and walked with him along the road towards Tsébigháhoodzání.

President Jonathan Nez greeted Bearsun in Indian Wells, Arizona, and called the man in the suit “Shashjóhonaa’éí”. Nez posted a live video to social media – central to Nez’s public image and inspiring the envy or need for approval for the upcoming election.

“We’re trying to give you a Navajo name, Bearsun,” Nez told the character outside of Indian Wells elementary school on Aug. 3.

“I think it will be the ‘bear sun’ in Navajo,” Nez said. “Shash means bear, jóhonaa’éí means sun. If we are talking about the beams going down, then it is shánídíín.

First of all, hataałii would say, calling Bearsun Shashjóhonaa’éí causes tension because Larios is not Diné and Bearsun is just a costume.

Our hataałii would say calling the costume Shashjóhonaa’éí is exploitation and it takes more of our culture and traditions, which is happening with our ceremonial chants.

I know this because I often speak with our nahałáhí and consult them for the stories – about language, history, traditions and culture – that I write.

Why is Bearsun important?

Bearsun, a “lovable” teddy bear “according to many people,” is like “Rilakkuma”, a famous Japanese mascot – a kigurumi or full costume.

Rilakkuma means “relaxed mood bear” in Japanese, according to character maker San-X.

Everywhere Rilakkuma goes, he is lazy and relaxed. Rilakkuma is stress free and does things at his own pace. Rilakkuma is also impossible for others to hate.

But that’s not quite the case for Bearsun.

Even after spreading love, joy, laughter, faith, hope and healing – especially after a difficult year and reminders of the virus – and raising awareness of the social justice issues that also affect our people , Bearsun apparently has naysayers.

A Facebook search on Sunday showed anti-Bearsun comments and uploaded images of Larios visiting Diné Bikéyah as Bearsun.

Searching for “Bearsun” and “iambearsun” brought up hundreds of messages – usually with a picture – indicating how nice it was to find, meet and see Bearsun or that it was an honor and privilege to walk with them. Bearsun.

Other articles have said that Larios as Bearsun looks like a “stoner” and has become a “Rez Ted” who spits curses or that Bearsun is a “scam”, collecting money for his benefit and “is something that was supposed to happen after smoking strong stuff ”, and that someone should steal Bearsun’s head.

These types of messages demonstrate a harsh reality. Social media encourages people to cross the line to provoke and post from the fringes to the general public.

“I invite everyone to come for a walk with me,” Larios wrote on one of Bearsun’s social media pages on Aug. 7. “Those who speak are specially. I’ll show you a thing or two.

I’m sure it’s complicated being Bearsun, breathing inside a 60 pound suit as the summer monsoon brought humid weather and torrential rains to our area.

But Larios as Bearsun is someone people should listen to because the alarm is sounded by a non-Diné man with a big platform.

Some of our employees have said that Bearsun is steadfast, outspoken and passionate. In his Adidas, his moccasins or his brand new pair of Hoka shoes, Larios in Bearsun is unstoppable and an inspiration.

Larios is dedicated to walking to New York, but is also dedicated to raising awareness and reaching potential donors for five causes – autism, cancer, people with disabilities, the environment and mental health – so even that he is sweating under intense heat inside the Bearsun suit.

He also suffers a little for our people.

As we face our challenges in our nation by simply walking with Bearsun, even for a few minutes, and showing our support in the meetings, it reflects something much more: how Bearsun has become a lever for change and a voice. director. on the problems we are facing at Diné Bikéyah.

One Diné asked on Facebook why Bearsun was so important. One response read, “Because the Navajo like different things.”

Is it true?

Last year’s pandemic turned our lives upside down and maybe we just miss our Navajo fairs and are fed up with staying home and not coming together like we used to. Bearsun could be worth the local hype.

Why the obsession?

Bearsun is fascinating for sure, and the online updates and whistle stops keep those interested in the suspense.

Bearsun even inspired Navajo mascots such as NTUA’s “Ashkii Happy” and “Kee Kilowatt”, “Willie Water” and “Frieda Flame” to violate stay-at-home orders.

Shash yáázh daane’į́h is of human interest, and many of our people, including our elders, have understood this and have turned Bearsun into art and songs.

Why? Bearsun is by no means a superlative. It’s not Batman or Spider-Man, who, like Larios, must both don costumes to become heroic.

And he doesn’t want to reveal his true identity.

Another man, Aleczander Goldsberry, also passed through our homeland when Larios was in Leupp, Arizona.

Goldsberry also travels across the country, from Florida to Alaska, and was in western Navajo when he met Mike Sixkiller, the manager of the Western Navajo Fair, outside of Bashas.

Sixkiller said Goldsberry is “cool and stuff.”

Still, he wished Larios in his Bearsun costume had visited Tónaneesdizí, where there would have been a parade down the main street, DJs posted along the pavement, and people in bear costumes dancing for Bearsun as he entered. in the community.

“This city would rock,” Sixkiller said. “Tuba City has to take things to another level! We don’t know how to be average! But that would be crazy!

Bearsun is compelling, powered by a cornucopia of selfies and social media posts.

Was Larios bored? Was he going through personal issues that led to Bearsun? Did he do it for the validation of others?

It’s a conundrum that many of us may never really understand why Larios decided to create Bearsun and cross the country as a honey and cream-colored character with a bobble tail.

A Facebook post said, “The Navajo Nation and its Navajo people welcome this visitor (Bearsun) with open arms, offering encouragement, conversation, sanctuary, food, water, shelter and shelter. silver.

Also at this time: The Navajo Nation and the Navajo people are also rejecting theirs, offering physical abuse, verbal abuse, denigration, no shelter, no water, no food, slurs and hate . “

Prayers might not be enough. We must work to find solutions and advance social justice issues in our communities. By coming together with an answer, we will recognize the magnitude of the challenges we face. Why can’t we just lay out for each other like we did for Bearsun with patience and kindness? Maybe if we showed humility, respect and selflessness to each other, to all living things, and to our land, our land would flourish and we would be better people.

We have to learn to encourage each other. We have to lift each other up. We have to give each other a compliment every now and then and be each other’s biggest cheerleaders.

Instead, we only show these qualities when a non-native visitor passes by, and we sometimes give them gifts, including dootł’izhii and Pendleton blanket, as well as a tour of our capital.

While Larios in his Bearsun costume left Tsébigháhoodzání Sunday morning after taking a personal day off, Bearsun’s mania will continue for months.

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