Medicine Wheel Snow Heroes Feted In Big Bear

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BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. /Send2Press Newswire/ -- Snow Summit and Bear Mountain Ski Areas hosted some heroes of the Big Bear Medicine Wheel Ceremony over the last two weekends, announced the Native Voices Foundation (NVF -

First Bennie LeBeau, the Eastern Shoshone/Serreno who led that ceremony which gave the San Bernardinos back their lakes, trees and best snow in 150 years, learned the joys of skiing. Then seven members of local tribes were invited, led by Akima Castaneda (Chumash), whom Olympic skier Suzy "Chapstick" Chaffee honored in Santa Barbara last spring as "a Father of Earth Day."

"This was an experience of a lifetime," said Akima's friend Rene Doctor, who got to ski at Snow Summit with her tiny tots, Kiki and Kemaile (Navajo-Tahitian), stars of December's LA Ski Dazzle salute to the Medicine Wheel Team, tipped off by producer Judy Gray. "Bless you Chris Riddle (Marketing director), Vance Valdez (Cherokee instructor), Ron Bertarello (supervisor), and Suzy (Native Voices Foundation organizer)," she said.

Wanting to be a part of the good snow karma experienced by ski areas like Aspen and Heavenly Valley after sharing skiing and snowboarding with the local tribes, Bear Mountain's marketing director Kim Herman and ski school director Steve Fengler, hosted Akima's family and Black Wind (Cherokee), a former Big Bear fire fighter and seasoned skier. He and Akima were the ghost dancers in the movie "Hidalgo."

Like LaBeau, they were all touched by the outreach of Dick Kun's Bear Mt Resorts team, which inspired Akima to lead a snow gratitude/healing ceremony during their reception at the Star Gazers B & B. It attracted locals, like builder Randy Kaul and Anita Miller (Navajo Snow Summit TLC instructor), followed by a constellation of star gazers singing happy birthday to Innkeeper Doreen Wiggins, her daughter Ginny, and Akima. Together they blew out the candles and then rocked. Coincidentally, the community was blessed with three chilly days that are prolonging their "best spring skiing ever!"
Next day, Suzy was invited by Randy and Anita to witness her friend, German Stefen Rossle, fell a 150 ft pine that died from the bark beetle epidemic from low water.

While the owner Bill Ramsey sadly reflected on losing this beautiful giant, Stefen initiated a Native American tradition of giving thanks with tobacco to the tree spirit before amazingly climbing to the top and safely buzz sawing it down in stages. "This is another loving way anyone can help heal the San Bernardinos, especially after a tree told Bennie to do the ceremonies or they would die," said Chaffee.

Thanks also to world press coverage, so many were delighted to hear that the Big Bear Resorts had given some joy back to the Medicine Wheel team, that a group of local visionaries are planning to meet with Bennie on his return around April 24. The purpose is to create ongoing support to help Bennie and local tribes (thru winter and summer programs) continue leading ceremonies that LeBeau says are "absolutely critical for moisture in these mountains and lake to go on"...which everyone's livelihood and joy depends on.

Anyone wanting to join this gathering, or support this best hope for the future of the San Bernardinos and skiing, please call NVF at: 970-404-0687. NVF is a 501(c)3, tax exempt partnership of U.S. Tribal leaders, Olympians..., whose mission is to "create joyful unity through sports to help heal Mother Earth for all our children." LeBeau's Earth Wisdom Foundation is now covered under NVF's umbrella to support these vital efforts. More info on, LeBeau on, or Gina's Weiss' including details on Bennie's seminar June 11, in Big Bear Lake, "Earth Changes and What We Can Do."

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REFERENCES: , , Native Voices Foundation, NVF, Suzy Chaffee, chapstick, Akima Castaneda, snowdance, dancer, tribe, Big Bear Medicine Wheel Ceremony, snow summit, Bear Mountain, california newswire, news, news, press release from Native Voices Foundation, Mar 18, 2005, Native American Interests, , , , , Medicine Wheel Snow Heroes Feted In Big Bear