Taos Pueblo Elder Tells Story of Rescuing Iconic Bear Cub

December 6, 2022


Photo courtesy Carson National Forest
Carson National Forest Questa District Ranger Adam LaDell brought Smokey Bear and staff to thank Mr. Samora for telling his story and his contributions to public lands.


Taos Pueblo elder Adolf Samora recently told the harrowing story of when he and his fire crewmates from the Taos Pueblo Snowballs rescued an injured and trapped black bear cub while working on the Los Tablos and Capitan Fires in the Lincoln National Forest in 1950. The cub was named “Smokey” and became the living symbol of the long-running fire prevention public service campaign. Smokey lived for the next 26 years at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Samora was accompanied on stage by Taos Pueblo Tribal Councilman Gilbert Suazo Sr. and UNM-Taos student Dominic Bau. Mr. Samora conversated while Mr. Suazo translated to the audience.

"The Taos Pueblo continues to be a critical partner in engaging with and adapting to fire in Northern New Mexico and beyond," Carson National Forest Questa District Ranger Adam La Dell said after the event. "Smokey Bear, as a symbol, also continues to adapt to the changing story around fire, fire-adapted ecosystems, and communities."

Taos Pueblo Snowballs and Smokey Bear was held at UNM-Taos Bataan Hall and included tables from Vista Grande High School and the Emerging Indigenous Ecologists Program, UNM-Taos Admissions, the Northern New Mexico Climate Change Corps, as well as the UNM-Taos Student Government Association. A traditional Pueblo feast day meal was provided by Tiwa Kitchen.

The event was presented by UNM-Taos, the UNM-Taos Cultural Programming Department, Northern New Mexico Climate Change Corps, and Emerging Indigenous Ecologists in honor of the Snowballs and Native American Heritage Month. 

If you want to relive this special event or were unable to attend, you can watch Finding Smokey Bear on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/UN5HRIfWAtg