Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Following in Big Footsteps...Big Foot Legend and Lore

"Peyto Lake" photo by KLWood
When my husband and I spent several months wandering around in the wilds of the far north and west--Canada, Alaska, Washington, Oregon--it was easy to imagine all kinds of creatures prowling about unseen, watching us and our two little dogs. Usually we were on the lookout for mountain lions, wolves, moose, black bears and grizzly bears (all of which we encountered in the wild except for the mountain lions. We only saw mountain lion warning signs along a trail in Washington where one had recently been spotted.) We spent a fair share of our time alone on back trails singing at the
"Wrangel-St Elias Moose" photo by KL Wood
tops of our lungs so as not to surprise one of these lovely large beasts. The one critter of which we saw neither hide nor hair was Big Foot AKA Sasquatch. In my recent research I have discovered that Big Foot isn't just the product of overactive imaginations of backwoodsmen perhaps out on the trail a little too long. There is a long history and tradition of tales of big, hairy man-like creatures throughout the cultures of Native American and First Nation Peoples of the northwest. 
Native American tribes all over the continent have stories of wild, hairy people of the woods and plains but those outside the northwest tend to be the opposite in stature and known as Little People.

"Alaskan Grizzly" photo by KLWood
The Big Foot (Big Feet?) as described by natives of the northwest pretty much match the classical image we have of the creature--hairy, smelly, six to nine feet tall, strong, reclusive, elusive and night-foraging. The Athabaskan people of Alaska know of a creature called Wood Man/Woodsman. Wood Man is usually a solitary being who sneaks around quietly, remaining hidden from humans and does no real harm although he can be mischievous, stealing items from the villages. They have even been known to come to the aide of their stronger-brained but weaker-bodied human neighbors. In some tribes he is known to be more aggressive, stealing children and attempting to mate with humans. Depending on local tradition, he is either one immortal being, as believed by the Ahtna people, or is part of a larger community of male and female Wood Men. None are considered in any way sophisticated and communicate only with whistles, grunts, and sign-language. 

The Author and Big Foot (photo by the author's husband, Bill Ahearn)
The creatures are known by many different native-language names as well as Wood Man, Hairy Man, and the more violent varieties known as Bush Indians and Stick Indians.

Whatever you call them, I think you might not want to surprise or startle them anymore than you would a bear or a moose. So, I invite you to take a page from our backcountry hiking songbook and when you find yourself alone in the deep, dark northern wilderness fill your lungs with the fresh, wild air and SING! Our song of choice? "We All Live in a Yellow Submarine." Worked wonders.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 


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