Jimmy The Bear | Photo: Jenny Tzanakos

Lesia Bear

By Meghan Power

“There are many people with stories to be told. Stories that contain wisdom and truth that can help people realize their worthiness by helping them find the confidence they need to achieve and succeed,” says Lesia Bear, renowned Cree actor, make-up artist, model, and now, documentary filmmaker.

“We never know the impact one story will have and how it might change someone by helping them to heal.” 


“My father’s story is about love, uplifting family, healing, and billiards. I believe storytelling is a powerful healing art — stories help people escape, process, integrate, and amplify the good in their life. Working on this documentary has been emotional, in having to revisit a lot of past family pain. It’s been healing and has helped with re-building relationships.”  


Lesia didn’t grow up with her father — in fact; she thought her father was deceased for the first 10 years of her life. “My sister and I were raised by our maternal grandparents on a farm near Calgary. It’s a long story — I once heard my mom say, ‘He’s dead to us.’ I never brought him up again until I was 13. I asked my mother where my father was buried. Well, long story short, I found out he wasn’t deceased. And I saw him that summer, in Vancouver where he had been living. After graduating from Jacobson’s Beauty School my mom encouraged me to move to Vancouver to get to know dad and it was also where I got my career started in modeling and film.”


Getting to meet people who know her father and listening to their stories about Jimmy “The Bear” reminded Lesia of the importance of community: “Community doesn’t care about your background or about where you came from — what matters is how you treat people and what you give back in return. My dad was well-loved and respected by his community of friends and fans. He played all over the US, England, and Canada — everywhere he went people loved him.” In Vancouver he was a regular legend at local spots like Guys & Dolls Billiards, The Commodore, and Seymour Billiards. In his career, he’s had eight perfect games and won tons of trophies. Wherever he goes, his joyful spirit makes everyone feel special.”


Lesia experienced a powerful sense of community among everyone who’s been collaborating and working with her on this documentary. “Barry Morrissette is my mentor, rock, and an integral part of this project. He’s been teaching me editing, sound, and cameras. I couldn’t have done it without him.  Also, Sparrow ArtSpace owners Sandra Neill and Jenny Tzanakos reached out to Lesia about the project and to do a behind-the-scenes photo shoot for the Exposure Photo Festival. “They made me and my dad feel like family which was so important to both of us.” 


And finally, Calgary Arts Development (CADA) Original Peoples Investment Program (OPIP) — without funding, this project wouldn’t be possible. “My friend, Jarret Twoyoungmen encouraged me to apply for the OPIP funding. As a storyteller, this funding has helped me share my father’s story.” Lesia believes stories like her father’s, about Indigenous achievement, family, and community must be elevated. “They aren’t just for Indigenous people; they’re for everyone. There’s still a lot of work to do in acknowledging Indigenous stories and CADA is helping us tell our stories. I see this grant as a gift that has helped me realize my calling to be a Story-keeper and teller.”