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Media Article # 343
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Bigfoot fans flock to Willow Creek
By Sara Watson Arthurs
From Siberian expeditions to Californian cave paintings, all things Bigfoot discussed at convention
WILLOW CREEK -- Dmitri Bayanov believes his trip to Humboldt County -- his first visit to the United States -- is fate.
Decades ago, he picked up a "wish" at a party -- something akin to a fortune cookie -- which said "You will get to America during a proletarian revolution." This weekend the chairman of the Smolin Seminar on Questions of Hominology at the State Darwin Museum in Moscow is in Willow Creek for the International Bigfoot Symposium. During the flight, he said, he reflected on the scientific revolution the symposium represented.
"Then I realized, all these people are proletarians in the scientific community," he said.
"All these people" are Bigfoot researchers from around the country. Anthropologists, amateur detectives and those simply fascinated gathered in Willow Creek for the symposium, hosted by the Willow Creek-China Flat Museum and taking place there and at Trinity Valley Elementary School. And many of them do see it as a revolution in the way people think about Bigfoot.
"The whole point of this is to take an issue that's had problems with credibility, and give it the kind of academic credibility it's long deserved," said the museum's Rudy Breuning, the conference's master of ceremonies. "We're trying to break out of the fruitcake mold."
The conference drew 220 people from 22 states, Canada, Belgium, Scotland, Great Britain and Russia.
Presentations and talks on Bigfoot took place Friday and all day Saturday. Today the conference will conclude with excursions to Bluff Creek, where Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin made the renowned film they said was of Bigfoot in 1967.
Bayanov gave a presentation on how his field has evolved over time in Russia. Sightings of Yeti, the Eurasian name for Bigfoot, have been reported for a long time but investigations into them gained momentum in the 1960s.
Some took the stories more seriously in Russia. Bayanov quoted another researcher who said the idea of a wild man roaming Siberia or the mountains of Tibet seemed plausible but one tromping around California was "a little too much to ask even Californians to accept."
He said the collapse of the Soviet Union brought changes to Bigfoot research. Some areas where researchers had led expeditions are now politically unstable and therefore off-limits. At the same time, Bayanov said Russia's greater freedom of the press makes it possible for him to publish his books.
He added that he had tried to travel to Canada during the Soviet era, and was unable to get through the bureaucracy, instead communicating with his American colleagues only through correspondence.
"Today, here I am in front of you," he said. "If anybody doubts that Bigfoot is real, I trust that nobody doubts now that Bayanov is real -- who does not doubt that Bigfoot is real."
Kathy Moskowitz, the Sonora-based forest archaeologist for the Stanislaus National Forest, gave a talk on the "Hairy Man" myths of the Yokuts tribe. She said they indicate that Bigfoot has been around for hundreds of years in several cultures.
After the creation of humans, one story goes, Hairy Man cried because people were afraid of him. In the only known pictograph of Bigfoot in California, he's drawn with lines coming out of his eyes believed to represent tears, Moskowitz said.
The painting, on the Tule River Indian Reservation, includes a male adult, female adult, and baby Bigfoot. She said the Yokuts refer to them as "Mayak datat," or "Hairy Man." Hairy Man figures in several Yokuts stories. He's said to have stolen food while it was being prepared, and parents tell their children not to stay out late or Hairy Man will get them, she said. But in most of the stories she shared he's more elusive than threatening.
One begins with the animals deciding what to do once humans began to spread out, taking over more of the land and food. Moskowitz told of each animal coming up with a plan -- the hummingbird seeking food from flowers, the dog by befriending people, Hairy Man by living "among the big trees" and hunting only at night.
Rick Noll of Edmonds, Wash., told the audience of an expedition in September 2000 to try to collect Bigfoot evidence. Armed with audio recordings meant to simulate calls, fruit to serve as bait, a thermal imaging camera and "very, very gross-smelling" pheremone chips developed from gorilla and human bacteria, Noll's team tried to lure a Bigfoot out toward them. They didn't see one, but they succeeded in making a cast of an impression that Noll believes to be of the torso of a prone Sasquatch.
Noll said some counties have passed ordinances prohibiting the hunting of Bigfoot and, in one case, attempting to declare it an endangered species.
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