Totems are as much a part of the culture than they were for an earlier one on the continent. The natives once considered all animals, trees, plants and rocks as having their own spirits. The most important of totems were often of animals which had certain qualities that were god like when seen in contrast with human qualities.
The spirit of the divine is seen as working in certain iconic species as well as representations made by the natives of these. And in the present tense things like bear carvings for sale retain some of this belief in natural spirits. Bears are of course the more popular beasts that roam the American wilderness and they often represent the outdoors.
For those who are fond of hiking trails and camping out in state parks or nature preserves, bears could even be an expected sight. Preserves also protect the animal species found there, and the furry brown giants are not exactly that wild to simply attack humans. There are too many similarities among species that belong to the order of mammals.
Bears, too, are considered highly intelligent and while they are powerful, they also seem to have some sort of control based on judgment. And humans themselves can befriend these animals, and many get used to the sight of humans in their own territories. They are not exactly competitors, simply interesting animals who walk on two legs.
For humans, the ursine specie takes on aspects of its being a lower fraternal order in nature. The notion that men can tame beasts has long been a belief that has created many practical systems for making beasts tamer in minds. Carvings are simple things, most woodsmen can do these in their spare time.
They often make of those familiar beasts a kind of symbol of their own work. Woodsmen, park rangers and the like acknowledge Smokey the Bear as part of their own special part of the woods. Smokey is the symbol of a friendship that has developed between men and bears, and his image is also a popular one among scouts.
Scouts are trained to live and survive in the outdoors, and a bear can be a symbol of a troupe or a level of scout preparedness or skill. Wood and forest lore are things that are natural to the bear, and its spirit can be found in inspiring carvings of them. You know the woods are nearby when you find a sculpture of this animal in front of stores.
The natural order is somewhat skewed to make the representation more relevant to human civilization. The bears themselves might have no notions that they represent something important. However, their intelligence can tell them how men have some respect for their innate qualities, and thus may have some empathy towards the other species.
The carvings might be romantic, and not necessarily based on what really happens in the wild. But for most, it is a potent spirit that could transform the ordinary everyday into something that dwells in the heart of the wilderness. A place which has its own rules and where the bear is a being which helps create them.