Theresa “Bear” Fox’s Chautauqua Performance

By Christopher Johnsontheresa fox

Renowned Mohawk singer/songwriter Theresa “Bear” Fox performed several original songs before a packed room at the Oneida Community Education Center on Monday, July 18, 2016. Bear, who hails from Akwesasne, N.Y., sung the majority of her often emotion-filled pieces in her native Kanienkeha, or Mohawk language, and she uses these performances to foment interest in the preservation of her language.  I was there to take photos for Kalihwisaks, but upon hearing her voice I was compelled to sit back and take in the beautiful sounds that comprise her show.

Bear’s award-winning career has spanned nearly two decades and with traditional rattle in hand, she moved through her one-hour set with the ease of a seasoned professional. She often focused intently on her inner-muse as she sang in her soft, yet very powerful voice.  I wasn’t alone in enjoying her performance, as many in the crowd listened with focused respect and clear enjoyment to Bear’s songs of a challenging, albeit love-filled, life.

Perhaps her most poignant song performed that evening was “Rich Girl,” which she sang in English. The song was written through the eyes of the young girl she once was, growing up with only bare essentials and the deep love of her family to get by.  It resonated with those in attendance because many people throughout Indian country experienced very similar circumstances in their youth.

Bear appeared in Oneida as the first in a new adult education series called Chautauqua (pronounced cha-ta-kwa), which will focus on bringing the community together to experience culture and history through entertainment, workshops and special presentations.  I was both grateful and blessed to be able to see her inspiring and moving show.  If her performance is any indication of the talent yet to come, Chautauqua is a must-see series that will culturally enrich anybody fortunate enough to be in attendance. 

In the meantime, I suggest you check out Bear’s website:  Although her visit to Oneida has come and gone, this site will help connect those who missed her show with the talented performer who moved so many of us.

Christopher Johnson, Oneida, is a reporter/photographer for Kalihwisaks.  He is a communication graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, with emphases in Public Relations, Mass Media, and Journalism.