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.

Dzunukwa Dance.flv

Wild Woman of the Woods feeds her son, whom she bore to a human male. In other works, the breasts include faces, indicating that extremities are spearate beings.
Wild Woman of the Woods feeds her son, whom she bore to a human male. In other works, the breasts include faces, indicating that extremities are spearate beings. | Source

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

The Wild Woman holds three COPPERS. that traditionally contain all the wealth of the chief. Pieces of the coppers in this artwork have been removed to represent purchases or challenges against wrongdoers.
The Wild Woman holds three COPPERS. that traditionally contain all the wealth of the chief. Pieces of the coppers in this artwork have been removed to represent purchases or challenges against wrongdoers. | Source

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.

© 2011 Patty Inglish

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Comments 11 comments

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

Sasquatch sounds very familiar to me but I can't recall where I first heard it. This is very interesting information. Somehow it seems similar to our own Aztec and Inca history here in Jamaica. Thank you for sharing.


Maralexa profile image

Maralexa 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

Congratulations on a well-written hub! This is extremely interesting, especially about the Squamish traditions. Living in British Columbia as I do, I have a number of friends among the First Nations including the Tsawwassen people. And, of course, the magnificent totem poles in Stanley Park speak volumes.

Thanks, I enjoyed your hub.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Cardisa - Thanks for the new information! I think this is a world-wide happening.

Maralexa - Thanks! Stanley Park is phenomenal.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I hadn't heard this theory of Bigfoot before, although if Bigfoot does exist this does sound like where the legend began. One thing I have always felt about creatures like Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, the Ogopogo and other legends is that if they do exist, someone is sure to kill them and put them on their wall to prove how great a hunter he is.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Sad, but true, Flora; but perhaps they cannot catch the Squamish men. Thanks for visiting!


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

Fascinating piece of writing. Up and interesting.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Hello, Patty, I loved reading this hub and thank you for your hard work putting it together.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Anohter hub I had the pleasure to read and enjoy. Fantastic.


marshacanada profile image

marshacanada 4 years ago from Vancouver BC

Thanks for this interesting informative hub. I didn't know of the tradition of spending so long in the woods, but bark and grass clothing and long hair used to be common.

I like your description of Dozonokwa. She is a wonderful spirit figure and have carved her a few times with her pendulous breasts, sleepy eyes and protruding lips.To me she is like Durga or Kali, Goddess of Creation and Destruction. I carve her holding a lost frightened little boy.He doesn't know if she will rescue him or eat him. I would like to make a Doznokwa mask.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

marshacanada - I admire your impressive carving experience! - I have not carved much wood, but have watched more often. I'd enjoy seeing your mask when you complete it; your backstory for your carved figure is fascinating.


burp 4 years ago

hub rocks.

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