Culture

The ClearBears Want Us to Embrace Nature

Respect for the environment is part of the ClearBear brothers’ Indigenous culture – and it’s something they say we can all cultivate.

Last updated: April 22, 2021

Come Together: We’re distanced, but not disconnected. We spoke to our
Holiday 2020 LookBook cast about what togetherness means right now.

Come Together: We’re distanced, but not disconnected. We spoke to our
Holiday 2020 LookBook cast about what togetherness means right now.

For twin brothers ClearBear and Haatepah, nothing keeps people together more than their relationship to the environment and nature.

“We’re made of the same liquids, metals and minerals that make up everything that’s here on this Earth and in the universe,” says ClearBear, 22. “We have that within our own blood, within who we are, and we can’t forget that.”

ClearBear, along with his partner Cualia, founded the Indigenous Alliance Movement, a growing collective that helps others reconnect to their Indigenous roots. It’s a journey the brothers shared together themselves after they were adopted as young boys and later discovered their own Indigenous roots and Kumeyaay, Pai Pai, and Chichimeca-Guamare tribal affiliations. Both now see their identities as Indigenous men as a way to help enact change and bring awareness to issues facing both their people and the environment — causes they say are interwoven and affect everyone.

“Our ways as Indigenous people go hand in hand with this land, because we are the land,” says Haatepah. “All of us are the land.”

The brothers, who live in California and are working together on music along with their activist endeavors, spoke to us about how they’re staying close to each other despite the distance, and how everyone can deepen their own connection with nature right now.

Indigenous Twin Brothers ClearBear and Haatepah Discuss Their Relationship with Nature

ClearBear (left), Haatepah (right)

It seems that your bond is more than just as brothers or twins, but really a connection that comes from discovering your roots and identities together — and also the struggles that came before that. What was that journey like for the both of you?

ClearBear:
We were so young [when we were adopted], so it’s not like we really got to learn anything about our culture because we were just little babies. At first, I was scared of who I was, not because of the history of my family, but just because I didn’t know what it was. I was so unaware of who I was.

[Our adoptive parents told us], “Well, you’re Native.” That’s very vague. There are so many different cultures and languages and tribes all across the entire continent. Saying that you’re Native American doesn’t really narrow it down.

But knowing that little bit, we were able to find out about our history. We’ve always just been really fascinated about Native history and migrations, so we were actually able to put a lot of two and two together.

Haatepah: We had an idea that we were specifically Native American Indigenous, or First Nations, when we were 8 or 9. We just didn’t know our tribes.

So we started a Native American club in high school. We gathered all the Native American students, and we tried to have events to learn about our culture. Since we didn’t know our tribe, we kind of just soaked up knowledge from all tribes from all over the Americas: North, Central and South America. From Alaska to the tip of Chile and Argentina, we had done research, and we just got obsessed about it, really.

ClearBear: Yeah. We did.

Haatepah: So we learned about as many as we could, and then once we located our biological family, we asked questions and we were able to figure out which tribes we come from.

What was the moment like to finally discover your identities as Indigenous men and say, “This is where we come from, these are our people”?

ClearBear: Honestly, it was just like...You know when you listen to a really good song and you shiver because the song just feels so amazing? It felt like that. Like, Damn. This is just amazing. Wow. What a fascinating race of people I come from.

Indigenous Twin Brothers ClearBear and Haatepah Discuss Their Relationship with Nature
Indigenous Twin Brothers ClearBear and Haatepah Discuss Their Relationship with Nature
Indigenous Twin Brothers ClearBear and Haatepah Discuss Their Relationship with Nature

“If I’m going to say this in a very blunt way, we are the ‘OG’ environmentalists. We have always known how to work with the land.”

Haatepah

You both are active in raising awareness not only of the rights of Indigenous peoples, but also of climate change and other environmental issues. How did finding out about your roots lead to those two efforts going hand in hand?

Haatepah:
Well, if I’m going to say this in a very blunt way, we are the “OG” environmentalists. We have always known how to work with the land rather than against it in a balanced equilibrium. So the environmental aspect of this — basically reclaiming your Indigeneity — goes 100 percent hand in hand.

ClearBear: In a Western point of view, we focus more on domestication of land, the control of land, rather than working with it. It’s human ego over everything, when it comes to land and resources. Everything else is expendable but our wishes and our needs.

What our ancestors preached and how they lived, the lives they lived and they still live, a lot of that is what is called semi-cultivation: working hand in hand with the land. We worked with the land in a way that it could flourish, we could nourish it, and it could nourish us.

What’s crazy with all these different cultures, all these different languages, all these different belief systems — one thing that all Indigenous cultures have in common is that base knowledge that you are one with nature, and what you do to it, it will do to you.

“It’s not your responsibility to run side by side with the speed of the world. Take your time to rest.”

ClearBear

Many more people are using this time to go outdoors and appreciate nature more, which is an inherent aspect of your Indigenous culture. Can you talk a bit more about how you see people connected in this way?

ClearBear:
A lot of us are kind of losing our minds just being indoors all the time, and we’re kind of seeking an escape. We’re slowing things down. You go outside, you can connect more with nature, the Earth, your ancestors, thinking about, Who was here before? or Wow, this looks so beautiful. I can’t believe I never took the time to look at this before.

There can be a lot of anxiety doing that line of work, activism, and it gives you a lot of stress. The best natural alleviator of stress, for me at least, is nature, hands down. I know it might be a cliché thing to say, but it really is. You go out in nature, take a walk, you feel way better.

Do you find that you both are connecting even more with each other and the land as well right now?

ClearBear:
I’ve just recently got a camper, so I’m kind of exploring that, of course keeping a safe distance from other people and playing it safe. I’ve just been driving to locations and appreciating nature. This society goes a hundred miles an hour. I feel like at least one of the benefits of this quarantine is taking that time, taking that second to breathe, because we don’t always get that chance to breathe and just take in the moment.

You also work together on music. What’s it like as brothers to share that passion and partnership as well?

Haatepah:
When you’re not with someone who’s really, really close to you or you have that deep connection with, there’s always that thought in the back of your head, Oh, I don’t want to embarrass myself. When you’re with your brother, you’ve seen each other mess up and be goofy and silly all the time, so…

ClearBear: …There’s not that pressure.

Haatepah: Exactly. And I think a lot of us as creatives, we work the best when we’re not under a lot of stress.

ClearBear: When we make a song and we create that vibe, or that emotion, he knows exactly what type of emotion I’m trying to convey when I sing. Or when he’s singing, I know what to do to. Kind of like, Oh, I know what you’re thinking. I know what you’re feeling.

Haatepah: Yeah, we supplement each other really easily. Better than most.

Indigenous Twin Brothers ClearBear and Haatepah Discuss Their Relationship with Nature

“We’re made of the same liquids, metals and minerals that make up everything that’s here on this Earth and in the universe. And we can’t forget that.”

ClearBear

How does the idea of collective power extend to your work, whether it’s raising awareness of the rights of Indigenous people or environmental causes?

ClearBear:
A lot of people when they get into activism, they might not even know it, but there’s this subconscious kind of, like, I want to be this superactivist; I want to be the next great big thing. And you really can’t get anything done that way. You have to humble yourself and you have to work together with others or you will not make a change. You can’t make a societal change just by yourself. You have to work with others, and you have to listen to the elders. You have to listen to the people who’ve been doing it for a long time, or you’re just wasting your time.

Haatepah: [Our tribe] would have tattoos as reminders to say “community over self.” Women would get one that is called the 111 tattoo, the 1-1-1. Three lines that go down the chin. And what that tattoo means is: I value my community, my people, the people who support me, the people who have shown me the way and guided me throughout my life, and I’d die for them and I’d support them in any way I can. You have to earn that right to have that tattoo. Community before self.

ClearBear: And in a lot of different Native cultures, self-centeredness was seen as a disease of the mind, and as the character that leads to greed, that could end up destroying the community with ego.

Indigenous Twin Brothers ClearBear and Haatepah Discuss Their Relationship with Nature

Finally, is there something from this time, this moment of pause and reflection, that you will continue as part of your routine or life?

Haatepah:
I’d say just trying to be patient with yourself. We’re only one person, only one human being, and we’ve just got to take that time to breathe. Self-reflect and always, I’m just going to say this, honor the Earth. Honor the Earth, honor our Mother, because this is something that’s been keeping all of us alive, regardless of your background, for hundreds of thousands of years.

ClearBear: And just to leave off with something, it’s not your responsibility to run side by side with the speed of the world. Take your time to rest — rest is important — go back to your health, respect yourself, then you can earn the respect of others.

Reported: July 2020

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