Talk about bears and Native Americans set for Tuesday |

Talk about bears and Native Americans set for Tuesday

Luke Graham

— Shawn Sigstedt is a realist, an opportunist and a scientist.

Colorado College and Harvard University educated, Sigstedt understands the funny business of the research in which he is involved.

It’s more of a marathon than a sprint. Results might take decades to come to fruition.

"We often have to wait 20 years to see if our work produces anything of value," said Sigstedt, who is the associate professor of biology at Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus. "I'm one of the lucky ones in that after two to three decades of hard work, it's paying off. I'm seeing success in every direction."

Sigstedt will host a presentation about his more than 20 years of research on how bears and Native Americans are using a native medicinal botanical for medicine. The talk begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the CMC auditorium.

"I learned that Native Americans have a technology that most of the people in our culture haven't discovered," he said. "This technology is extremely advanced. It resembles scientific thinking, and it's based in observations that are real. It involves conservation of species and communities. They embed a very profound technology within their daily and ceremonial lives that have beneficial biological consequences for sustaining nature."

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Sigstedt long has been a proponent of preserving nature and understanding the Native American culture.

His family owns a ranch that was at one time more than 1,000 acres in the Priest Creek area. Although the ranch now is significantly smaller, it was there he started to appreciate nature and its power to contribute to the quality of life.

He studied at Colorado College in Colorado Springs in the 1970s while at the same time spending seven years living with Navajo, Ute and Hopi tribes and observing the way they used the osha root. The common bond, he found, was that Native American tribes were learning medical technologies by observing application techniques from bears.

"There was always a mention of the bear plant, or bear medicine or plant that bear loves," Sigstedt said.

So during his time at Colorado College, Sigstedt set up a controlled experiment with bears. He gave them big pieces of the root. The bears took the root, chewed it into a paste and rubbed it over their bodies. Then they shook their head vigorously to turn the root into a mist, walked underneath it and rubbed it into their bodies.

"Nobody had ever heard of an animal having so much knowledge about medicine and using it appropriately," he said.

Through further research, cases were found when a bear that had been shot took osha root and rubbed it into the bullet wounds.

Osha root is found throughout the Rocky Mountain region and is especially common in the Yampa Valley. But because of its dwindling numbers, Sigstedt said it is important to be protective of its locations.

The 90-minute, multimedia presentation also will wrap in Sigstedt's other research titled the World Park Project.

"I've discovered a way to help restore our entire planet back into a healthy global ecosystem," he said.

He spent the summer giving the talk around the world including stops in England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden and Iceland.

The World Park Project is related to insights and the evidence provided from observing traditions from the Native Americans and bears.

The loose basis is to take nature parks and preserves from around the world and consider them the centers of a world park. From there, gradually expand them until they connect.

"What I'll be doing is using the bear research model to show how we can help restore our planet to a healthy global condition," he said. "I give the presentation of the bears and how bears are keeping nature healthy. The Native Americans have a saying that wherever they have bears, nature is healthy. Wherever you lose your bears, nature is collapsing."

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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