In American Indian mythology and medical practice, the Mudjekeewis (the Grizzly Bear), Spirit Keeper of the West and the Chief of the Council of all Spirit Keepers and Animal Totems, is a symbol signifying responsibility, resourcefulness, intelligence, wisdom, introspection, physical and spiritual strength, and expertise. 

problem solver, the Mudjekeewis uses both his hands and his heart to find ways to do things that will benefit both himself and all of his brothers and sisters.

Twenty years ago, when we began to build the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center, under Dr. Joseph Simone’s guidance, we chose the Mudjekeewis as our symbol, as this Great Spirit Keeper represents our commitment to using our hands and our hearts to serve those whose lives have been touched by cancer, and to do so with courage, knowledge, grace, and great ability.

On reflection this past week, like so many feeling pain and loss with Dr. Simone’s passing, but also appreciating his greatness, I have come to realize that Joe was our cancer center’s Mudjekeewis.