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The Last Speaker of Bear is the patchwork story of a life spent traveling in the north from Alaska to Siberia. Lawrence Millman first visited northern Canada as a child and has spent four decades since on some thirty-five expeditions in search of undeveloped landscapes and traditional cultures, not to mention untamed wildlife. While much of his experience is centered in Canada—including territories from Yukon to Quebec and Newfoundland/Labrador—he includes stories from villages in Greenland, Iceland, and Norway as well.
Early on, Millman developed a reverence for the wisdom of indigenous and native communities with histories spanning centuries: Inuit, Inuk, Innu, Alutiiq, Cree, and others. Whether dining on mushrooms, fungus, tobacco leaves, or unusual foods that would have made even Andrew Zimmern or Anthony Bourdain turn up their noses, or exploring northern tundras, rugged mountains, or remote islands, he paints a picture of people often living in tenuous conditions but rooted in a faith that their worlds will provide for them. Relationships with bears, caribou, reindeer, walruses, seals, whales, and abundant avian life serve spiritual, companionship, and sustenance purposes. Traditions grounded in family and community rituals thrive, as do lost languages, natural medicine, and time-honored ways to survive difficult circumstances..
In this collection of vignettes, Millman reminds us of the potency of endangered knowledge as well as the importance of paying close attention to the natural world. He opens our eyes to a life in remote places thousands of miles from the fast-paced, urban world so many of us inhabit.