Carved Cedar Poles in Washington and Oregon: Power Animals and Bigfoot
The Truth is Preserved in Wood Carvings
I began researching Native Americans and First Nations in my teen years and after college I discovered my own heritage among the Mohawk Nation and Iroquois Federation in the Eastern Woodlands Indians. A native ancestor translated Mohawk, French, and English for the British in the Battle of Fort Pitt and other encounters, while additional relatives past migrated and/or intermarried with British and French colonists of the New World in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Ohio - and Canada, largely in Ontario and Quebec Provinces.
I was ecstatic to find such information, given that my genealogy had been untraceable up to the time of my discoveries through reading that I enjoyed. A kind Native American who was a client at my workplace guided me in the right direction after that. I am thankful to him for his words to me and thankful that the research has brought me understanding as well as immense satisfaction.
Overlapping my period of discovery was my college minor that led me to Franz Boas's original research texts on the Kwakiutl People of the Pacific Northwest only about 30 years after they were first published. These and related texts founded the study of Anthropology. While my own anthropology, archaeology, and sociology minor focused in the Pacific Northwest on Haida and Haisla groups, the Boas books demonstrated the prevalence and strength of the Kwakiutl cedar pole and mask carving culture in the Pacific Northwest.
This culture, through clan intermarriage, combined fascinatingly with Alaskan, British Columbian, Washington, and even Oregon native cultures to produce a unique artistic world of communication. The carving lineages I have traced are exciting and interesting in that it uncovered the first female cedar pole carver, Ellen Neel and the renowned carver Bill Reid, who is publicised as Haida, but is by blood Kwakiutl and European as much as Haida.
Giants and Wild Women
The astounding bit of information I share here is that Bigfoot and like creatures seem increasingly connected to an Alaskan clan's representation of two figures featured on their story-teller carved cedar poles: The Giantess and Giant, otherwise called The Wild Woman and the Wild Man of the Woods (discussed in greater detail below).
These are extremely tall people seen by Alaskan, British Columbian, and Washingtonian Native Americans at least, and placed on their carved lineage poles (each considered an actual person and storyteller) that greet visitors at the entrance of their homes.
In fact, the Wild Woman,Dzoonokwa, is recognized as being the actual founder of one clan of Alaskan Natives - the mother of all in that line of people. She is the founder of the clan of the wife of Chief Mungo Martin, who is perhaps the greatest cedar pole carving Kwakiutl of all time, colleague of Franz Boas, and instructor beside his wife to hundreds of young native artists until his death. His lineage is fascinating and is presented here: Cedar Master Carving Lineage. I traced this information from many sources, none of which connected it all up. It is still not all-inclusive and dozens of 21st-century descendants are keeping pole and mask carving alive with their own input and personalities, just as Chief Martin encouraged.
Can we believe in "Bigfoot" creatures? My research and the presentation of the History Channel mentioned below indicate that we might. A third reason for my possible belief is that I had a great uncle with stronger native heritage than my own, who was also 7'0" tall. The Bigfoot species many witnesses describe is 6'5" to 7'0" or taller. With long hair, my great uncle, who was a long-time coal miner, would have been Bigfoot to many who saw him hunting in the woods.
Dzoonokwa, the Wild Woman, Giantess, and Cannibal
Carved Pole Stories of Wild Men
During September 2011, cable television's History Channel rebroadcast a documentary featuring a group of anthropologists from various universities and research foundations around the world. Their subject was Bigfoot and the many other names by which this being is called. By the end of the documentary, the group had presented information on nearly a dozen species of humanoid beings over time that have resembled the great apes, humans, or something in between - including one woman!
The interesting part of this documentary to me is the relationship of a Native Amierican tradition on the Pacific Northwest Coast with the presence in the oral tradition and the cedar pole carving tradition of Native North Americans - First Nations and Native Americans - from Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington State. Specifically,the Squamish people of this region have a tradition by which young men of their tribe or nation go into the wilderness and live completely in nature for 10 years as a rite of passage. Their hair grows long and they cover themselves with long mosses for warmth.
Some of these men have been seen by mainstream Native Americans and by non-native peoples in the area. They are likely labeled as Bigfoot or Sasquatch in the oral tradition of the natives and rumors of the non-natives.
In the pole carving tradition, which is firstly a form of story telling and then one of art, two of the power animals that can be a clan's symbol and founder of their people is 1) Dzoonokwa, the Wild Woman of the Woods or the Giantess, who married a human male, and 2) Bookwus, the Wild Man of the Woods. These two characters are very much like Bigfoot, with long hair and even the female having facial hair.
Research Links and Opinions
- Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy
Bigfoot research in the State of Texas
- Indiana Jones and the Sasquatch of Doom | Henry Gee | Science
Henry Gee: The recent discovery of the saola - a large mammal - shows that we don't know everything ... that big mysteries still await
- Ancient Mysteries - Bigfoot: Narrated By Leonard Nimoy
Amazon.com: Ancient Mysteries - Bigfoot (A&E DVD Archives): Narrated By Leonard Nimoy: Movies & TV
© 2011 Patty Inglish
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