The Centre for Fortean Zoology was founded in the UK in 1992 - nearly 20 years ago. Over the past two decades it has expanded to become a truly global organisation. We opened our American office in 2001, our Australian office in 2009, and now - in our 19th year - we are proud to welcome CFZ Canada to the CFZ global family.

Tuesday 29 October 2019

The "Real" History of "Sasquatch"?

Toronto may be the center of the Canadian Universe, but Vancouver certainly has an ego.  Recently, a web show called Vancouver is Awesome did an "investigative" piece about the origins of the name "Sasquatch"

According to the article,  reporter Bob Kronbauer visited Harrison Hot Springs and the nearby Reserve.  There he met with Kelsey Charlie of the Sts’ailes First Nation.  For Sts'ailes, the Sasquatch is such an important aspect of cultural identity and spiritual beliefs that their logo and national flag bear his image. 

Here's their YouTube of the show

He of the large feet has been around "many thousands of years" and the legend has been passed down for generations.  These oral histories refer to him as Xwelmexw, or People of the Land.  On nearby Sa:sq’etstel (Sasquatch Mountain), there are paintings thought to be 3,000 – 7,000 years old, and already depicting Sa:sq’ets. Charlie, on another website, says:

"The word Slalikum in our language means supernatural, it is like a shape if they want to be seen they are going to be seen. On moonlit nights, the way our elders told us, that is when you are not thinking when you are not distracted, you are focused on what is in front of you, so in that time if the light hits it right, you can see that, you might be able to see that. That is what I was told. If you are at the right place at the right time you will see him roaming throughout the land.”

The reserve has a lot invested in Sasquatch.  Sasquatch Crossing Eco Loge, formerly the Charles Fenn Pretty homestead,  In the 1980’s, much of the remaining property, (506 acres which have extremely high fish and wildlife values)  was sold to the National Second Century Fund to form the Harrison River Wetland Conservancy.  A decade or so later, Ella Pretty sold the house and 87 acres to a couple from Vancouver who restored, renovated and operated  it as a B&B.  It was purchased by Sts’ailes (formerly Chehalis Indian Band)  in 2009.

Encyclopedia Britannica agrees that the name Sasquatch originates in the Salish se’sxac,
and assigns a translation of “wild men”.  British explorer David Thompson is sometimes credited with the first discovery (1811) of a set of footprints.   Thompson mapped and established trading posts in Northwestern MontanaIdahoWashington, and Western Canada. He was the first European to navigate the full length of the Columbia River. He documented the footprints near Jasper, Alberta, saying the print  "very much resembles a large Bear's Track".  He began work on a manuscript chronicling his life exploring the continent, but the project was left unfinished when he lost his eyesight in 1851.

A small news item in 1958 led to the modern version of the mythical wild man.  Journalist Andrew Genzoli of the Humboldt Times wrote about a letter from a reader about loggers in northern California whohad discovered mysteriously large footprints. Genzoli said that he’d simply thought the mysterious footprints “made a good Sunday morning story.” But it seemed to fascinate readers.  Genzoli and fellow Humboldt Times journalist Betty Allen published follow-up articles about the footprints, reporting the name loggers had given to the creature “Big Foot.” The modern  North American concept of bigfoot can be traced directly to the Humboldt Times stories.   

Most sources agree that  J.W. Burns coined the term in the 1930 as an Anglicization of the Salish word Sasq’ets, meaning “wild man” or “hairy man.”.  His story in Maclean’s magazine in 1929  was published on April Fool’s Day, leading many to dismiss it as a prank. There are older articles which reference the wildmen of the Pacific Northwest, but Burns’ is the supposedly the first to actually refer to these creatures as “Sasquatch”.

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