During the US war in Vietnam there were many things carried over hilltops and through jungles by young American men. These things brought the soldiers luck, memories of home, escape from the reality of war, or protection from it. Among these special items and as out of place as the young man who’s neck it adorned, a claw of a great grizzly bear made its way through the humid forests of Vietnam. The man who carried this claw was a Montanan of European decent, the claw a gift from a Native Blackfoot friend, who when unable to dissuade his friend from avoiding the draft, gave his powerful family heirloom as protection…
“When he saw I was going to leave, he loaned me his great, great, great, grandfather’s grizzly claw and told me to wear it all the time and it would bring me what I needed to get back. I believe it did. I held onto it around my neck and it held onto me. When I returned I gave it back to him in worse shape. He said the battering it took was taken away from me.”
Forty-five years later this symbol of strength, protection, and friendship between cultures has been cast and reforged in bronze by the Yellowstone area artist George Bumann.
Last month Becky Leuning, Don Blackburn, and I represented the US committee at the 16th Vietnam Friendship Village International Committee Meeting. I carried a bronze casting of that original grizzly claw and was proud to present it on behalf of the US committee and all of our supporters, to Dinh Van Tuyen, Director of the Friendship Village.
The beautiful bronze casting has a heft to it, you can feel the power and weight of the stories it carries. Blackfoot, American, Vietnamese. This symbol was brought to life by one of our Vietnam Friendship Village Project USA supporters, George Bumann, and he is graciously sharing the proceeds from this artwork with the Friendship Village.
“To share the good fortune that has come our way in life just seems like the right thing to do. We have seen enough to realize how truly fortunate we are and though we are by no means ‘well off’ by American standards, we have been the benefactors of a great number of special opportunities and good luck-opportunities that others have not, or may never have. Caring for our fellow man seems like one of the greatest monuments that we can leave to future generations.”
George is one of many Friendship Village supporters giving their talents and inspiration to honor the lives and stories of our friends in Vietnam. While you are giving remembrance to the past this Memorial Day, please consider what you might be able to create to honor our future.
If you would like to support the Friendship Village by purchasing one of these limited bronze castings, please contact George Bumann directly. The price is $105 plus $10 shipping (in the US). Each claw comes with the story of the original that traveled to Vietnam, a story of strength, protection, and unity.
George Bumann gb@GeorgeBumann.com 406.223.6859