When you think about Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti and other such creatures, blurry photos or ape like creatures and horror movies come to mind. In fact, even the term Bigfoot is a relatively recent one dating from the 1950s when a reporter for the Humboldt Times, Andrew Genzoli, used the phrase to describe the unknown creature behind a series of tracks in the area.
However, the mythology behind Bigfoot in North America to start with is a great deal older. Many of the Native America tribes had stories about creatures that were more ape-like than man but very definitely a humanoid creature as opposed to a bear walking upright or some other misidentification. Here is a snapshot of some of these.
The Boqs were the hairy wildmen of the forests according to tribes such as the Bella Coola, Salish and the Chinook. This was a dangerous creature, malevolent in nature who would attack people and even molest women in the Bella Coola versions, while the other tribes regarded it as more benign. The Bella Coola described the Boqs as resembling a man with eyes that were distinctly human, walking upright but with a stooped posture and covered in long hair.
According to the Chickasaw, the Lofa was an ogre-like malevolent monster whose name mean ‘flayer’ or ‘skinner’ because it flayed the skin from its victims. It was described as very large and hairy, a smelly man who sometimes abducted women. This reference to the smell of the creature is an early reference to another series of modern Bigfoot stories about especially foul-smelling creatures such as the Skunk Ape.
This creature comes from the stories of the Cheyenne peoples and is a Bigfoot type creature that was also noted as having bird-like feet. The name means ‘big monster’ or ‘big spirit being’ and it was considered to be powerful and dangerous but also somewhat shy, tending to avoid contact with people. They were linked to the Hairy Men spoken of in the Cheyenne’s Creation Myth who lived in caves to the south of the tribe and were known for having hair all over their bodies and not wearing clothes. The tribe believed the Hairy Men were extinct.
Similarly, to the Lofa of the Chickasaw, the Choctaw spoke of the Shampe, another malevolent monster that either abducted women or ate the men. The creature was described as either a giant or a large hairy man and again, his overpowering smell was mentioned even as an offensive weapon as people were unable to fight against him due to the smell.
Many of the Northwest Tribes, including the Salish, spoke of the Stick Indians as dangerous forest spirits. The specifics could vary between tribes as some saw them as Bigfoot-like creatures while others more as dwarves. They had a range of powers including to paralyse or hypnotise their prey, cause madness in humans and even mimic sounds that would draw the unwitting to them. They were cannibalistic, kidnapped children and molested women as well as taking violence revenge against anyone who injured them, even unintentionally. Few stories were told of them for fear of invoking them and even their name is an English euphemism, as the tribes would not use their own name for the creatures.
Most all of the Native American tribes make references to wildmen or hairy humanoids that inhabit areas near them. Many of them have similar physical characteristics and also some mention a terrible smell, a facet that is common in more modern stories. Therefore, there is the possibility that these creatures, perhaps some offshoot from modern human or a link between man and ape, has been around a long time. Plus the stories from North America are not the only ones across the world that have similar basis, making the case that perhaps these creatures were once widespread across the connected parts of the world, before the continents moved to their current positions.