Bernard are large by Terran standards though not giants, most standing almost 2 meters tall with large, thickly muscled, humanoid bodies covered almost completely in soft fur. Warm-blooded mammalian creatures, they have broad faces and broad, barrel chests, resembling nothing so much as the great bears of ancient human myth. Females and Males are sometimes hard for other species – especially fur-less ones – to tell apart, but to other Bernard the distinction is obvious, with females slightly larger, and having rounder faces and bellies. They breathe a familiar nitrogen-oxygen mix and can eat almost anything – true omnivores – making it easy for them to survive alongside humans.
For as long as their history records, the Bernard have been a communal society. Once they lived in a patchwork of small villages, across the length and breadth of their home-world, sharing the labor of the village, the rewards of natures bounty, and even the raising of the young. The Bernard truly embody the ancient Terran saying that it takes a village to raise a child, and most hold their communities in high regard; above even blood kin.
As the Bernard grew from a primitive agrarian people to a planetary civilization, they built cities, and great centers of production, but even now their architecture reflects their roots, with extended families and groups of families living together in large housing compounds. Their communal traditions of child-rearing were formalized and today, all children are considered wards of the state, and, indeed, actually CHOOSE their parents upon coming of age in a process called Fosterage.
The Bernard are the ultimate communal thinkers, with every person’s actions seen in light of their contributions to their community as a whole. As such, they have never had any real concept of trade – in ancient centuries yearly fairs – part celebration and part business meeting – were held between nearby clans to discuss how best to exploit common resources, and as the complexity of their civilization grew, so too did the complexity of the rituals and systems that surround these determinations.
To other races this makes the Bernard system of “government” seem ponderous to say the least, and slow to react to changing situations. But to them it is simply natural. Since they received The Message, the Bernard have taken to the space ways slowly, but deliberately. Conflict between Bernard groups is simply unheard of, at least with the scale and violence with-which other races make war. Discovering the violent and self-destructive behavior of their celestial neighbors alarmed the Bernard like nothing in their history, and in their fear of other species they very nearly choose to isolate themselves in their home system.
In the end, though, they chose differently – not for profit, or glory, but out of duty. They regard the other races of the galaxy as wayward children, dangerous to themselves and others, and consider it their responsibility to help them achieve harmony and prosperity, as the Benard have themselves. Though not warlike, they are not naive, either, and so, in the century since Contact, they have built a powerful fleet with which to defend their own system, and other, less advanced species in the surrounding space. Today the Bernard are one of the greatest forces for order in an increasingly chaotic galaxy.