Monday, October 23, 2017

Frank Tyro of Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont. talks last Thursday evening about his experiences seeing the Northern Lights in the  Canadian town of Churchill.Little Big Horn College student Jeff Rides The Bear puts on gloves made with beaver fur during Frank Tyro’s presentation.This photo of a polar bear, which Frank Tyro calls “Bear Yoga,” was taken in 2004 east of the Churchill Northern Studies Center and 16 miles east of Churchill, Manitoba.

SKC media director pitches polar bear ecology trip

Those who travel up to the small Canadian town of Churchill, located on the coast of Hudson Bay, Frank Tyro said, might just see something unexplainable. In his case, he met an Inuit man who asked him if he wanted to see the Northern Lights, then allegedly called them down. 
 
“There were absolutely no lights and then he started whistling,” Tyro said, leaning forward on a lectern during a presentation last Thursday at Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency. “There they were.
 
“We try to make these logical, scientific explanations of things, but sometimes I don’t think we can explain them. And that’s fine.”
 
Tyro, also the media and public TV director at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont. since 1984, has now visited Churchill 37 times over the past three decades as a volunteer for Great Bear Foundation. He is also a member of the Foundation’s board in Missoula, Mont. 
 
While they may not see unexplained phenomena, visitors to Churchill through Great Bear Foundation field trips will definitely see polar bears, the subject of their ecology field course in the town of 800-plus. If they’re not careful and take a nap at the wrong point, the bears may even begin fishing through the opening of their vehicle in search of food, an incident Tyro remembers vividly.
 
An advertisement for their five day and four night Polar Bear Ecology Field Course states that visitors will have the opportunity “to watch polar bears in their natural habitat, keeping our impact low and carbon footprint small.” Last Thursday was the first time Tyro presented at Little Big Horn College for the trip, which is scheduled in August, October and November.
 
“An understanding of the ecosystems of the world helps us to better understand our place in the world and the web of life,” he said. “We have a tendency to get locked into our own little family or group or town, and not understand or realize that there’s so many other things that are not only interesting, but helpful to understand about the world.” 
 
According to Tyro, Churchill is a melting pot of both animal species and people – polar bears, caribou, beluga whales; Inuit, Cree, Sayasi Dene.
 
Having been raised on the Flathead Reservation in western Montana, Tyro believed he knew “a little bit” about indigenous people, but found “a whole other world” in Churchill and during his other travels. Some facts challenge traditionally-held conceptions of Native tribes.
 
“What’s interesting about the Sayasi Dene is they speak Navajo,” he said. The Navajo are normally found in the southwestern United States. “There’s actually several tribes in the north that speak a dialect of Navajo.”
 
Chrislyn Red Star, who works in the Little Big Horn College archives, decided to watch Tyro’s presentation after spending the day with him in training on video camera use. While she’d like to go to Churchill, she said, the cost is “pretty expensive.”
 
Still, she did learn that polar bears could be located in Canada and bringing down the Northern Lights, she added, was an interesting concept.
 
All proceeds from the Great Bear Foundation course fund non-profit bear conservation work. For more information on the course, go to www.greatbear.org.
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