Looking for Bigfoot in Indian Country

This story was updated June 25.

It has been more than 50 years since the legend of Bigfoot first captured the hearts and imaginations of the American public. It has been more than 50 years of sightings, investigations and debunking. But are we any closer to having proof that can pass scientific muster that this tall, hairy being with gigantic feet exists? No one has the answer to that question, yet some Bigfoot experts have figured out that the best place to get the evidence is in Indian country.

It makes sense. Long before this elusive creature became part of popular American folklore—we’re talking hundreds, if not thousands, of years—his presence had been accepted by North American tribes. Most had a name for him. The Lakota called him “Chiye-tanka,” the Chippewa, “Djeneta” and the Seminole, “Ssti capcaki.” Then, of course, there is “Sasquatch,” derived from the Salish in the Pacific Northwest. Depending on the tribe, he was regarded as a physical being, as real as any human, or a spirit that often manifested on Earth as a friend, never a foe, to mankind.

David Paulides, executive director of North America Bigfoot Search in Los Gatos, Calif., and author of the book Tribal Bigfoot, says Bigfoot has a firm place in many tribal cultures as “Keeper of the Forest” or “Keeper of the Earth.” “It’s someone that they’ve always revered, respected, admired and at times even traded with,” he says.

Paulides, a retired police officer, spent two years on the Hoopa Valley Indian Tribe’s reservation to investigate Bigfoot sightings. His work there, published in a book titled The Hoopa Project, entailed talking to hundreds of witnesses, people from three different tribes in the region and people who had to sign affidavits before recounting their experiences. He brought in the best forensic artist he could find—Harvey Pratt (Cheyenne and Arapaho) with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation—who generated what Paulides describes as a “stunning” sketch based on the witnesses’ accounts.

Paulides came away from the Hoopa reservation with the conclusion there was something very real there, not any form of myth. “Everyone we talked to said it was human, and they related it as a type of tribal group. It was someone that they communicated with.”

In search of definitive proof, something at the DNA level, Paulides and his team have collected more than 100 hair, tissue and bone samples over the last three years. The samples have been studied by a group of scientists, and their findings will be presented in a white paper that will be submitted in the coming months to a scientific journal for peer review.

Anyone interested in learning more can head out to the Honobia Bigfoot Festival & Conference, being held in Honobia, Oklahoma, September 30 – October 1. Paulides and Pratt will be there speaking on the Native American-Bigfoot connection.

Most recently the Sanger Paranormal Society presented what they believe is evidence that Bigfoot does exist. The society held a press conference June 23 to reveal an imprint on the window of Jeffrey Gonzalez's pickup truck. Gonzalez, founder of the Society, was quoted at the conference saying, "Whatever it was, it was oily, greasy dirty because you can see the facial features."

The Society called in DNA expert Mickey Burrow who could not determine what it was, but likened it most closely to the imprint of an ape.