The bear, mató represents a masculine character and is known for healing and knowledge. The bear is chief of the underground supernatural forces and masculine in nature in perfect balance to the bison’s feminine nature. Because bears dig for roots and herbs and are one of the few wild animals who use medicine on themselves, bears are thought to be the chief healers among animals.
The bear’s habit of digging underground for roots and hibernating during winter demonstrated his supremacy and fearlessness; Lakota men sought bear medicine powers fiercely. It was believed that women should have nothing to do with the bear because of his masculine nature.
The bear is also known for his unpredictable contrary nature, fierce and brave one moment and ready to charge any enemy, cranky and growling his displeasure the next, or curious and playful the next. If a man dreamed of bears, he was expected to behave aggressively when needed and be fearless, yet he should also show unusual kindness, be peaceful when he could, and be filled with the knowledge of herbs and medicines.