"Bigfoot Rock Art!"

By: Robert Leiterman

BFRO Curator/Investigator

 We all know that legends, Mythological Creatures and monsters have to be dreamed up from somewhere, right! I don’t think all of these, so called monsters went shopping at the same costume parlor to get their individually custom made Bigfoot outfits. Do you!

Well then, lets go to the next step.

"What kind of visual evidence, out side of inconclusive hair samples, huge scat piles, or a genuinely, matter of fact, Bigfoot corps, could we put our hands on?"

Let’s say, something that was created before the arrival of European man. Maybe, something that could actually give us an idea of how one of these huge, hairy, primate like, bipedal creatures, might even have looked like.

In the Pacific Northwest we have beautifully carved wooden masks of fierce looking Bukwas. When translated, interestingly enough, it means, "Wild man of the woods". We also have the beautiful totem poles; carved by the Nimpkish tribe of British Columbia of creatures they respectfully called Dsonoqua. When translated it reads, "Cannibal Woman".

Now file those images in your mind!

These works of art were constant reminders to their people, that a race of black, hairy, human like creatures, with deep-set eyes, inhabited the nearby mountains. When you travel a few miles south, towards the city of Seattle, you enter the traditional lands of the Salish people. They too had a special name for their big hairy neighbor, a name that is almost commonplace today. They called them Sasquatch, which surpassingly also translated into, "Wild men of the woods".

What do you know!

They have found what they believe to be a broken stone carved into the shape of a foot. It’s about average size for a Sasquatch footprint, in British Columbia. The big toe and the lower half of its heal were broken off and missing from the detailed carving.

There are also the numerous small-carved stones found along the Columbia River area between the states of Washington and Oregon. What makes these several stones so special is that they are believed to be Indian-carved stone heads. These, just under human head sized stones, were carved into the shapes of different animals that inhabited the area. A few of these particular stones are very uniquely special. They are carved into the distinct shapes of monkeys! Primates!

"Interesting!" You say.

The Native Americans that call the area their traditional homeland did not have any idea of the origin of those objects. The archeologist believed that the Prehistoric Native Americans, that once inhabited the area, had carved these objects. They could only estimate these stones to be centuries old works of art.

We have all heard about the many interestingly entertaining stories and names given to these "Mythical" creatures by the Native Americans of Northwestern California, but I often wondered if there were more to it than just stories.

So, needless to say, I was emencly surprised when, a little over a month ago, a Forest Archaeologist, who had worked near the Tule River Indian Reservation in Central California took the time to E-mail the BFRO. The individual briefly shared some very intriguing information about the Yokut peoples belief in the existence in a large, hairy, smelly, bipedal human like creature. A creature very similar to what us Californians call Bigfoot.

I was intrigued and was able to link up with the individual a week later to learn more about the stories.

The individual had never really seen a Bigfoot, but had heard enough to become very interested in the phenomena. They had read about some of the most recently reported sightings, listed in the Three Rivers area, and over the years, had also heard several similar experiences from members of the Yokut descendants on the Reservation.

The individual told me of the Pictographs they shared with them, of what was believed to be, a family of Bigfeet, painted in a special cave, somewhere on the Reservation. The mural was described as being about six feet tall and over thirteen feet long. Amongst the paintings of red and white colors, a family, of what was believed to be made up of three individual Bigfoot creatures, was intermixed with other mysterious shapes and figures. The alleged Bigfoot looking creatures are quite different than the other forms that look very much like human figures.

(See attached illustration)

"So what are Pictographs?" You ask.

Pictographs are paintings of shapes and figures, usually found on rock faces or inside caves. Note the term used… Rock Art. There are thousands of pictographs located throughout California’s many wild places. Some of the most famous, being from the Chumash in the Santa Barbara area. These works of art have been created by Native Americans, some as long as a thousands years ago. Most of the true meaning of the artwork has been long lost, generations ago. Scholars can only speculate on the significance of what the original artists were trying to say, document or describe. It was usually the Shamans, the spiritual leaders that created these images. It is believed that these pictures depicted the supernatural world, concepts or ideas, record dreams, and events.

"So, why would these Yokuts paint pictures of a family of Bigfeet on the wall of a special cave?" Very good question!

Over the years, this archaeologist had worked amongst their members gaining their trust and acquiring information about the Bigfoot phenomena on Tule River Reservation.

When first investigated by archaeologists the site was given the catalog number CA – Tul – 19, by the Smithsonian.

(Picture by Jennie Franco)

A Rock Art Researcher by the name of David Whitley, claimed the artwork had actually represented a man in a bear costume.

The Yokut elders of the Tule River Reservation strongly disagreed. They believed it is not a man in bear’s regalia, but of a large hairy, bipedal creature they call, mayak datat sunsunut, "Bigfoot, the Hairy Man" or "hairy one." (Pronounced: milyak datr! atr! shoonshoonootr!) Good luck with that one!

They believe that these creatures really do exist on and around their geographic area as well as play an important role in many of their traditional stories. It was also mentioned, that Bigfoot played an important role in the Yokut’s creation stories. They believed the Yokut people exist today as a people, because of Bigfoots special powers to create.

The last publicized Bigfoot related activities on the Reservation were in 1979. Many still claim to see them today, but refuse to make a big deal out of their encounters. They view the sightings as a gift, a spiritual experience, … a blessing. They consider these Pictographs and the cave that shelters them to be a very sacred place.

If planning on viewing the cave, you will need to get tribal permission at the main office before visiting the special site.

I have not had the opportunity to visit the Bigfoot Pictographs myself, but it is definitely on my list in the near future. I have found that with every extraordinary work of art comes a very special story.

I would like to thank the person who was kind enough to provide me with the Rock Art information. If it weren’t for that person’s special interest, another piece to the mysterious, bipedal puzzle would go unnoticed.

Note: The following is one of a collection of stories that were collected, in 1973 through 1975, from grandparents, great grand parents, and other Native Americans, who remembered hearing them, around winters campfires as children. The storytellers, who provided the stories, had translated them into English from their Wukchumne and Yowlumne Dialects of the San Joaquin Valley Yokuts.


By: as told by Rudy Bays and Jennie Franco

Native American Cultural Education Project

Copyright Tulare County Board of Education 1975

Tulare County Department of Education

Office of the Superintendent

202 County Civic Center

Visalia, California 93277




"Big Foot was a creature that was like a great big giant with long, shaggy hair. His long, shaggy hair made him look like a big animal. He was good in a way, because he ate the animals that might harm people. He kept the Grizzly Bear, Mountain Lion, Wolf and other larger animals away.

During hot summer nights all the animals would come out together down from the hills to drink out of the Tule River. Big Foot liked to catch animals down by the river. He would eat them up bones and all.

It was pleasant and cool down by the river on hot summer nights. That is when grown ups liked to take a swim. Even though people feared that Big Foot, the hairy man, might come to the river, people still liked to take a swim at night.

Parents always warned their children, "Don’t go near the river at night. You may run into Big Foot."

Now Big Foot usually eats animals, but parents said, "If he can’t find any animals and he is very hungry, he will eat you. Big Foot, the hairy man, doesn’t leave a speck or trace. He eats you up bones and all. We won’t know where you have gone or what has happened to you."

Some people say Big Foot, the hairy man, still roams around the hills near Tule River. He comes along the trail at night and scares a lot of people. When you hear him you know it is something very big because he makes a big sound, not a little sound.

Children are cautioned not to make fun of his picture on the painted rock or play around that place because he would hear you and come after you.

Parents warned their children, "You are going to meet him on the road if you stay out too late at night." The children have learned always to come home early. "

Ruby Bays

Jennie Franco

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