Archie Motkaluk is a Canadian
born to Ukrainian parents, although much of their immigration paperwork says
“Austria Galicia”. His father immigrated
in 1903 and was already married. Archie
is one of 11 children in this family.
The family farmed near Renwer, Manitoba, which is about 20 miles from
the nearest “larger” town, Swan River.
Swan River had about 3000 people in 1960.
Archie’s father had arthritis
and found farming quite difficult. All
of the children were expected to help.
After his high school graduation, Archie spent two years mining in Thompson,
Manitoba. Thompson is about center in
Manitoba, while Renwer/Swan River is near the Saskatchewan line and further
south—at about the same Latitude as Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The farms were laid out east to west about a
mile wide for each property. The property
then extended several miles. Archie
recalls that there were about 8 farms, and all backed onto the “Crown Land”
Boreal Forest. This forest separates the
tundra of the north from the deciduous forests of the south. It is about 1000 km wide and stretches from
the westernmost part of Newfoundland through to the Yukon/Alaskan border. It is a vast amount of Canada’s land mass,
yet only houses 14% of the population.
The northern part of the Boreal Forest is quite cold and has fewer
trees, the size of which gets smaller the further north you go until reaching
The area of the Boreal Forest
where Renwer is located is rich in natural resources, and heavily
forested. Species populations currently
found there probably began about 5000 years ago, well after the retreat of the
Wisconsin Ice Sheet. Regions are largely
uniformly grown; mass amounts of flora damaged in cyclical disasters like fire
or insect manifestation. These naturally
occurring events would wipe out widespread areas, then the areas would all
regenerate at about the same time. Prior
to modern man settling there, the cycles were 75 to 100 years, and in some
areas that is still the case.
Deforestation due to humans has been minimal across Canada in these
regions, although it does occur.
Currently, the Canadian Boreal Forest is still 91% of what it was prior
to European encroachment.
Trees native to the boreal
include Black Spruce, White Spruce, Balsam Fir, Larch (Tamarack), Lodgepole
Pine, Jack Pine, Trembling and Large-Toothed Aspen, Cottonwood and White Birch,
and Balsam Poplar.
Fauna in the area include shrubs,
mosses, and lichens. Willow, alder, blueberry, red-osier dogwood, and
honeysuckle, produce bright-coloured or conspicuous berries that attract
fruit-eating birds and provide food for mammals.
The Canadian Boreal Forest is
populated with thousands of living creatures.
It is a breeding ground for over 12 million water fowl and millions of
land birds as diverse as vultures, hawks, grouse, doves, cuckoos, owls,
nighthawks, swifts, hummingbirds, kingfishers, woodpeckers and passerines. There are 1.5 million lakes in Canada’s
Boreal Forest and large boreal lakes have cold water species of fish like trout
and whitefish, while in warmer waters, species include northern pike, walleye
and smallmouth bass. There are about 130
different species of fish in the area.
This forest shelters more than 85 species of mammals, including wood
bison, elk, moose, woodland caribou, grizzly and black bears, and wolves as
well as smaller species, such as beavers, snowshoe hares, Canada lynx, red
squirrels, lemmings, and voles. The
snowshoe hare is the most ecologically important as it is food source for many
of the local predators (both mammals and birds) and feeds on the forest’s
various plants and shrubs. It is
estimated that 32,000 insect species are present, although about one third of
these species have yet to be described. Several are particularly well adapted
to their habitat-- black fire beetles have infrared sensing organs on their
bodies that allow them to track the heat of forest fires as they search for
freshly burned trees on which to lay their eggs; the white-spotted sawyer
beetle use their long antennae to sense chemicals in smoke and charcoal to
achieve the same goal. These two beetle species are an important part of the
diet of several bird species commonly found in burned forests. Aside from the farmers at the very south edge
of the forest, the area is home to about 80% of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
At this point, not much
damage has occurred due to issues like population, pollution, flooding for
hydro power, mining and drilling, or climate change. These things do happen, but it is usually much
localized and the government, both national and provincial, are starting to
take steps toward regulation and preservation.
One of the most intensive studies is that of the permafrost thaw and how
that will affect the peat and wetlands in the area. Additionally, there is recurring drought in
some areas of the forest bed, causing issues for plant life there. There are 5.7 million square kilometers of
Canadian Boreal Forest and roughly 6% of this is permanently protected. Another 4% is currently temporarily
protected. There are 90 species listed
as endangered (465 for all of Canada).
Aside from a small Provincial
Park east of the Renwer area, the Boreal Forest of concern in this report is
not protected lands. It is currently
considered part of “Agro Manitoba”, the most densely populated part of
Manitoba. Some measures are already in
place, but the government is attempting to assist landowners with ways of
preserving privately owned property for conservation into perpetuity.
The Renwer area is home to
several animal species, but the only remotely upright animal of significant
size is the American Black Bear.
Although they do have a
period of dormancy during the winter, they do not fully hibernate. It would thus be possible for Mr. Motkaluk to
have seen one on December 29, 1960 in the Boreal Forest at the back of his father’s
farm tract. Realistically, since he had
lived on the property for 20 years—all of his life—he would have known well
what a black bear looks like. His
certainty that what he saw was not a bear cannot be doubted.
What did Archie Motkaluk see
that winter day? He saw an upright
being, immediately thought to be human, walking at the edge of the woods. He was not under the influence of any alcohol
or medication. He was a healthy 20 year
old man, in the area to cut wood for the family farm.
Archie Motkaluk was one of 11
children who worked this family farm. He
knew his way around animals, both domestic and wild. From about age 12 he was included in hunting
parties to bring back game for food for the family. He knew how to use a gun, and in fact had one
with him that day. He brought it because
he knew he would be in the presence of animals, and poor farmers of the 1960’s
would not pass up an opportunity to bring back meat if the occasion arose. He did not necessarily feel he needed protection;
he simply was prepared for hunting if he saw anything worth bringing home. He had traveled the approximately 3 miles
from the farmhouse with a team of horses and a small sleigh for carrying the
firewood back. He tethered his horses to
a tree that appeared to be dying, and he took his axe to the tree line. The area where the family gathered their wood
was a relatively large clearing, about 400 square yards, which Mr. Motkaluk
identifies as “about the size of four city blocks”. He had been there hundreds of times in his 20
years. He left the farmhouse at about
10am that day. It was not snowing, as
the area had considerably less snow than normal that year. In fact, there were only about 4 or 5 inches
of snow on the ground. He also recalls
that it was not particularly cold, but in Manitoba that could still mean well
below zero. Records indicate that a
record high for the area was 10C on December 1, 1960 in Brandon, Manitoba, and
the average high for the Renwer area at the end of December is about -10C. Average snowfall for the month of December
there is 26cm and no records were set at any date near the time of Mr. Motkaluk’s
event. Nearby Swan River historical
weather data shows the high was -2C and the low was -14 with no new snow for
the previous four days.
At the far end of the
clearing, Mr. Motkaluk saw what he believed to be a man. It stood on two feet, completely upright, and
he assumed it was one of the local farmers hunting for meat for the
family. The man was walking slowly along
the edge of the trees, stopping occasionally to pick and eat what Mr. Motkaluk
believes was “cranberries and frozen chokecherries”. Boreal Manitoba native fruit species include the beaked
hazelnut, blueberry, bog cranberry, buffalo berry, bunchberry, choke cherry,
cloudberry, currant, elderberry, gooseberry, wild grape, hawthorn, high-bush
cranberry, lingonberry, mountain ash, pin cherry, prickly pear cactus, wild
raspberry, wild rose, Saskatoon, and wild strawberry. It is entirely possible that the creature was
foraging for fruit left on the bushes and vines. Mr. Motkaluk continued to watch the “man” as
he was chopping his wood. After about an
hour, the “man was approximately 100 yards away. It was at that point Mr. Motkaluk noticed
something was wrong.
By the time the creature was
50 yards away, Mr. Motkaluk believed he was seeing a Sasquatch. After graduating high school, he had worked
for two years in the mines near Thompson, Manitoba. Many of the workers there told stories about
the creature, and this sparked enough interest for Mr. Motkaluk to seek out
magazine and newspaper articles on the subject.
There weren’t many available at the time, but he says he would read
anything he found on the subject.
Through the stories and the articles, he believed that Sasquatch would
only be found in British Columbia. With
a mere 50 yards between them, Mr. Motkaluk stopped chopping wood and
watched. The creature came to within 8
to 10 feet of where he was standing. Mr.
Motkaluk is 6’4” tall and at that time weighed about 220 pounds. He describes the sasquatch as slightly
shorter and about 325 pounds; and female.
He could not see genitalia, but breasts were clearly evident. The two stared at each other and the creature
made snarling, hissing, groaning, and grunting sounds, as well as grinding its
teeth. This went on for what seemed like
6 or 7 minutes. Then the animal stopped
making noise and they continued to stare at each other for an additional 4 or 5
minutes. Mr. Motkaluk says he felt
frozen to the spot, unable to move.
Eventually, he was able to take a step back. When he did so, the Sasquatch also took a
single step back. They continued this
pattern, with each taking two or three steps backward until they were about 20
yards apart. The Sasquatch turned and
again began foraging for food, and Mr. Motkaluk returned to his sleigh.
Once seated on the sleigh, he
began to relax and ate his lunch. He
then took his axe—and this time his rifle—and went back to chop wood. The Sasquatch was still there, watching him.
Because of the close
proximity, Mr. Motkaluk was able to get a quite detailed description. He says the Sasquatch was covered in very
fine hair, dark brown in color. The hair
was no longer than one inch and was shiny, much like a domestic house cat. It
had a light brown face without hair, although the hair did continue onto its
neck. Only the back of its ears had
fur. He describes the visage as that of
a “middle aged aboriginal with a stern face”.
Its teeth were wider than normal human teeth, he estimated about 5/8 of
and inch wide. There were no distinct
canines (or fangs as he described them) leading Mr. Motkaluk to believe the Sasquatch
was strictly a vegetarian. The soles of
its feet and the palms of its hands were grey, and the tops of each had the
same fine hair. Mr. Motkaluk said it
“looked very human” and nothing at all like a monkey or other primate. The arms were proportional to the body in the
same way as a human. The fingers were a
bit fat, but not disproportional to the overall size of the animal. He
likened it to photos he has seen of Neanderthal Man. There was no distinct smell of any kind. The animal appeared very clean and well
groomed. Its face was distinctly
human. The nose was slightly larger than
average, but definitely not flat like a primate. There were eyebrows of a darker color than the
face, as well as very human looking eyes.
He believes they were brown. Ears
were clearly visible and looked human.
He jokingly said what he saw was basically a 325 pound hairy woman.
Mr. Motkaluk said that many
enthusiasts describe Sasquatch as having no neck but that is definitely not the
case. What he saw had at least a 3 inch
tall neck and was able to look from side to side without turning its body. He did say that he does not believe Sasquatch
is capable of running, at least not fast.
He describes the gait as a side to side wobble, again much like a large
and heavy human woman or perhaps a child who is just learning to walk. He also said that from time to time the Sasquatch
would have difficulty picking up the small berries from the ground or the
The Sasquatch stayed in the
area with him for a total of about 4 hours.
Mr. Motkaluk finished his wood chopping and loaded his sleigh and
returned home. He is certain the Sasquatch
was still standing there watching him when he left.
Archie Motkaluk returned to
his family farm at about 4pm. His father
reminded him to groom and stable the horses, and after that Archie went into
the house. His mother was immediately concerned
and asked what was wrong, saying he “looked white as a ghost”. Archie assured her there was nothing wrong
and retired to his room where he wrote the whole incident down. He had no “regular” paper so he wrote it on
brown paper bags. When he returned to
his mother, she would not let up and urged him to tell her what was wrong. He told her of the sighting and she had him
draw what he saw. His mom was an avid
reader and knew of Sasquatch and never tried to tell him he was mistaken. He took his writings and drawings and put
them in an envelope, where they stayed untouched in his basement in Winnipeg
for nearly 50 years.
Mr. Motkaluk was raised
Ukrainian Orthodox and still considers himself of that faith. He has had no other events in his life that
he would consider paranormal. He has had
recurring nightmares of the encounter, and for the first 10 years after the
sighting he sought medical help to get to sleep. Otherwise, he doesn’t think the encounter has
He was watching Outdoor Life
Network (OLN) and was interested in a show about Bigfoot/Sasquatch. There was an “expert” from the Pacific
Northwest who said that the phenomena were not real but rather a product of
overactive imaginations. Mr. Motkaluk
was outraged. He decided that his story
needed to be told; until that time he had told nobody except his mother because
when he would think about it he would become upset. His wife of almost half a century did not
even know. He talked to her, and then he
rewrote his notes into an article and attempted to get it printed in the
Winnipeg Free Press. Because it was 11
pages long, they refused to run it so he took it to the Winnipeg Sun. They questioned him for two hours about what
he had seen and finally decided he wasn’t lying. They promised to run his article, but in fact
ran only a small human interest piece based on the interview. Since then he has been on the radio once, and
was promised to be brought back for a call in show. That never materialized because the station
felt it had become “old news”. Mr.
Motkaluk is clearly frustrated with media and is not seeking any fame or
recognition with his sighting experience.
He has not attempted to “sell” his “story” in any fashion. He said he had been contacted by researchers
from all over North America, about 200 people in his estimation.
I spoke with Mr. Motkaluk for
well over an hour on a Friday evening via telephone. I found him to be very like-able of at least
average intelligence, and very proud of his “farm boy” heritage. I saw no signs of mental illness, including Alzheimer’s,
nor do I believe he manufactured his sighting.
I encouraged him to protect his original notes and drawings and to
carefully select someone to receive them when he is no longer able to keep
them. Although his exposure to
discussion of Sasquatch prior to his sighting is somewhat problematic, what he
describes is not typical media information.
Mr. Motkaluk’s testimony is
compelling in its detail and the supporting possibilities—dense forestation,
minimal human population, abundance of vegetation for subsistence—makes a good
case for the acceptance that the Sasquatch phenomenon is real. I’m convinced that it is definitely real for
him, and likely for his family members who now know the story.
Journal of Ecology. 1978.
Conservation Biology. 2003.