Willow Creek, California: Bigfoot Capital of the World

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But it’s the local Native American tribes whose knowledge stretches back hundreds of years and – as the individuals most intimate with the nature that envelops Bigfoot Country – whose sightings and stories carry the most weight.

The term “sasquatch” is actually derived from “sásq’ets”, a word from the Halkomelem language of the Coast Salish Nation, located in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Roughly translating to “wild men”, sásq’ets were described as hairy, huge beings considered powerful but generally harmless. Also of note, though much further south, is the Tule River Indian Reservation in central California, home to one of Bigfoot’s most fascinating artifacts: a series of petroglyphs created by Yokut Native Americans depicting a group of large shaggy creatures. strangely resembling a certain hominid. These images, located at a site called Painted Rock, are believed to be between 500 and 1,000 years old.

“A lot of our tribal people believe it because we’ve seen it. And I’ve heard from elders talking about it,” said Michelle Hernandez, a member of the Wiyot Tribe from Humboldt County, the same county as Willow Creek. “There are too many stories for it not to be real.”

His father, a tribal chief, did not have one, but Three encounters with the creature: once – like Breuning – in the Alaskan wilderness, and twice more in northern California, not far from the reserve. One story, Hernandez says, found him and several other members tending to the dirt when suddenly they heard a loud bang in the forest ahead of them.

“He looked out of the corner of his eye and he said he saw this huge, tall – oh my God, it gives you goosebumps – this huge, tall figure,” Hernandez says. “The beatings intensified. And my father watched the [people he was with]. And he was like, ‘We have to go. We have to go now. Upon their return to the reservation, when Hernandez told an elder about what he had seen, the elder confirmed his suspicions that they had likely encountered a Bigfoot.

While dating isn’t necessarily rare in this part of the world, it’s not necessarily something to seek out. Why Bigfoot shows and hunters feel compelled to seek out and harass a creature that clearly doesn’t want to be found, Hernandez says, is a mystery to her.

“As Native people, we’re taught to respect things, not to take what isn’t ours, and not to take too much,” Hernandez says. “Here in America, we’ve lost that [way of seeing] things, because we always want to find answers. I think there are some things you can’t find the answers to. And I think Bigfoot is one of them.

“For me, it’s not this mythical and magical being; and I feel like that’s what the media portrays,” she continues. “There are enough stories to know it’s there. To me, it’s just an animal that should be respected and left alone.

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