Pre-Columbian and Early American Legends of Bigfoot-like Beings


Penutian (page 2)



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Indian Tribes:

  • Yakima
  • Klikitat
  • Klamath
  • Modoc
  • Maidu
  • Yokuts
  • Costanoan
  • Patwin
  • Miwok


Legendary Beings:


One legged man
Ste-ye-hah' mah
a spirit hiding under the cover of the woods
the human who is transformed into a cannibalistic monster by tasting human flesh in time of starvation
poesessing the shape of a grizzly bear, is invisible and goes about everywhere bringing sickness and misfortune on mankind
the great thunder-bird
A fiend with a horn like a unicorn
a giant.



Klamath Ethnology,
Leslie Spier, UC Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, Vol. 30.
Legends Beyond Psychology
Henry James Franzoni III and Kyle Mizokami
The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft,
Volume III: The Native Races. Vol. III. Myths and Languages. San Francisco: AL Bancroft & Company, Publishers, 1883 .



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The Windago: Place names, Origin, the "Portage Story"

Windago Butte, is found in Douglas and Klamath counties. "Windago Butte, Windago Pass and Windago Lake are all on the crest of the Cascade Range south of Cowhorn Mountain. Virgil Vogel in Indian Names in Michigan, p. 102, describes the Ojibwa Indian tales of the Windago or Weendego, a legendary tribe of giant and ferocious cannibals. km He gives references as old as the 1823 Narrative of an Expedition to the source of the St. Peter's River, by William H. Keating. The compiler has no idea how the word came to be applied to the features in Oregon, but the name Windago Butte goes back to the early part of the twentieth century."30

Among eastern Algonkian tribes, the Windigo -- "the human who is transformed into a cannibalistic monster by tasting human flesh in time of starvation -- his fearsomeness comes from his very closeness to humans. The Windigo is the embodiment of the hidden, terrifying temptation within them to turn to eating other humans when no other food is to be had."31

"Algernon Blackwood wrote a great story about the Wendigo called (not surprisingly) "The Wendigo." There's also a pretty neat novel by T.Chris Martindale called "Where The Chill Waits." Stephen King, in "Pet Sematary," makes a passing reference to the Wendigo. Aside from stories of the Wendigo itself, (where it's variously portrayed as a huge Godzilla-like monster that leaves flaming footprints [I'm not kidding], the spirit of a woman who murdered her children, or a malevolent, invisible entity) there is also "Wendigo Madness," where a Wendigo possesses someone and turns them into a vicious cannibal."

"This story, I found out later, was based on the Blackwood one... but I suspect Blackwood based his on the Northern U.S./Canadian legends of the Wendigo. The story goes like this: there were these two guys that went canoeing, and they came to a place where they had to portage (carry their canoes overland). They walked through the woods until night fell, and they set up camp. Well, one of the guys woke up in the middle of the night to answer the call of nature, and he saw that the side of the tent was bowed inward, as if someone was leaning on it. But, his buddy was sleeping right next to him. He reached up to touch the tent wall, and it was ice cold. He was so scared, he just lay there until morning, not sleeping. When day came, the thing outside the tent was gone. So, the two guys packed up their gear, and got their canoe, and headed off again. They walked all day, and when the sun was setting, they came upon an old Indian man, holding a human skull and shaking beads in it. He said to him: "You can't stay here, this is Wendigo territory. Get through it as quickly as you can." Of course, being Stupid White Guys ;) they laughed at him, and kept walking. Well, the sun went down, and all of a sudden, somewhere behind them in the woods, they heard this horrible scream. It could only have been the old Indian. They looked at each other, kinda freaked out, and they started walking a little quicker. And then, behind them, they heard this huge, crashing noise like a runaway bulldozer coming through the woods. They looked around, and there was nothing there, but the trees were splintering and crashing down in the path of something horrible and invisible. Well, they dropped their canoe and all their gear and they just ran like hell, and kept running until they dropped from sheer exhaustion. And the thing behind them came howling up -- and stopped and crashed around for a while in frustration, but it couldn't get them because they had reached the far edge of its territory". (Someone named Gidget from the Internet)


    30 Oregon Geographic Names, Sixth Edition", page 918. compiled by Lewis A. and Lewis L. MacArthur, 1992 Lewis L. MacArthur, Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland OR.

    31 Gayle Highpine, Kootenai Indian


Wappeckquemow and Omaha

From a letter just recieved from Judge Roseborough, I am enabled to close this chapter with some new and valuable facts regarding the religious ideas of certain tribes--not accurately specified--of the north-west portion of Upper California. The learned judge has given unusual attention to the subject of which he writes, and his opportunities for procuring information must have been frequent during ten years of travel and residence in the districts of the northern counties of California:--

Among the tribes in the neighborhood of the Trinity river1 is found a legend relating to a certain Wappeckquemow, who was a giant, and apparently the father and leader of a pre-human race like himself. He was expelled from the country that he inhabited--near the mouth of the Klamath--for disobeying or offending some great god, and a curse was pronounced against him, so that not even his descendants should return to that land. On the expulsion of these Anakim, the ancestors of the people to whom this legend belongs came down from the north-west, a direction of migration, according to Judge Roseborough, uniformly adhered to in the legends of all the tribes of north-west California.

These new settlers, however like their predecessors of the giant race, quarreled with the great god and were abandoned by them to their own devices, being given over into the hands of certain evil powers or devils. Of these the first is Omaha2, who poesessing the shape of a grizzly bear, is invisible and goes about everywhere bringing sickness and misfortune on mankind. Next there is Makalay, a fiend with a horn like a unicorn; he is swift as the wind and moves by great leaps like a kangaroo. The sight of him is usually death to mortals. There is, thirdly, a dreadful being called Kalicknateck, who seems a faithful reproduction of the great thunder-bird of the north: thus Kalicknateck "is a huge bird that sits on the mountain-peak, and broods in silence over his thoughts until hungry; when he will sweep down over the ocean, snatch up a large whale, and carry it to is mountain-throne, for a single meal."


    1 The Trinity/Klamath river region of Northern Calfornia will be recognized by many as the site of many Bigfoot sightings, including the famous Patterson film.

    2 "Omaha" bears a resemblance to the word Yurok term for Bigfoot "Omah", so perhaps the judge is referring to the Yurok as originators of the legend?

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Updated:June 18, 2000
© 2000 Andy Rennard, Bigfoot Field Researchers Organisation