in the Mountains: The Search for Sasquatch" does not attempt to
prove or disprove the existence of sasquatch, but instead looks
at how and why the story is so ingrained in the cultural fabric
of the Northwest.
story of sasquatch certainly goes far beyond the 1987 movie "Harry
and the Hendersons" or recent beef jerky TV commercials. It has
been told for centuries among Northwest Indian tribes.
mix of ancient mythology and modern commercialism is the focal point
of a sasquatch exhibit that opened Saturday at the Washington State
of the themes of the exhibit is to look at sasquatch from a perspective
that people don't think about how far-reaching the story is," said
Gwen Perkins, the co-curator on the exhibit. "If you look back into
history, this type of story has been reflected in legends and stories
all over the world. But this story also has such strong connections
to the Northwest."
is a word derived from the Salish word "sesqec," meaning "wild man,"
Perkins said. In other parts of the world, the name is Bigfoot,
Yeti or Wild Man. Definitions of the names vary from "ape man" to
"bad luck spirit" and from "big elder brother" to "evil cannibal
exhibit is built around about 40 significant items, including casts
of alleged footprints, ancient stone carving and Indian masks.
of the key artifacts is a prehistoric stone head borrowed from the
Maryhill Museum of Art. The carving was found in the Columbia Basin
in the 1890s and is believed to date from 1,500 B.C. to 500 A.D.,
you see them, they resemble gorillas. There have been at least four
of these stone heads," Perkins said.
was a lot of debate when they were found, Perkins added, questioning
how people at that time would have seen a gorilla-like creature.
have one belief about it, sasquatch people have their belief about
it," said Susan Rohrer, manager at the State Capital Museum. The
head was part of the exhibit when it appeared in Olympia in 2007-08.
is the origin of them, why are these stone heads there? It really
is a cornerstone of the exhibit," Rohrer added.
part of the exhibit looks at the story of sasquatch in Northwest
are easily hundreds of sasquatch legends, particularly here in the
Northwest," Perkins said.
told frequently by the Nisqually Tribe of Indians is the story of
the giant hairy beast Tsiatko, believed to mean nocturnal demon.
thought it was huge, with 18-inch feet shaped like a bear's. One
thing that keeps coming up, here and on the east side, sasquatch
supposedly has an owl voice," she said.
exhibit also includes five Indian masks, four of which are believed
to have been made in the 1920s.
on display are a number of footprints casts, including items from
the collection of Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum, a Discovery Channel Bigfoot
expert and professor at Idaho State University. There also are casts
from the late Dr. Grover Krantz, a noted Bigfoot researcher and
anthropologist from Washington State University.
was one of the first scientists to come out and say sasquatch exists,"
Perkins said of Krantz. "That had a pretty major impact on how people
looked at the possibility of this being real."
admits not everyone who sees the exhibit will be convinced sasquatch
is real. She recalled a letter to the editor written to The Olympian
when the exhibit appeared at the State Capital Museum. The letter's
author asked why the museum would not do an exhibit on the tooth
fairy if it did one on Bigfoot.
was the lone dissent, however, said Rohrer, the Olympia museum manager.
had huge attendance. We had people fly in from out of state for
this exhibit. I had people from Southern California call to see
where was the nearest airport to Olympia so they could fly in,"
there was the day Meldrum and Bob Gimlin spoke at the museum. Gimlin
is famous for being part of the group that filmed what they claim
was a Bigfoot in Northern California in 1967.
held two programs that day, but we still must have turned away 200
people," Rohrer said.
never had an exhibit when I had to stand between a speaker and the
public so the speaker could go get dinner," she added. "Meldrum
was on the floor of the museum for 12 hours that day, people just
wanted to speak to him, show him evidence."
is scheduled to speak at the Tacoma museum in June.
an exhibit that has a really focused interest group," Rohrer said.
"There are scientists, naturalists, pop culturists, ethnographers,
the hobbyists, people who enjoy the unknown. It's kind of one of
the last unknowns, kind of like UFOs."
understand this is a topic that is very strongly under debate. We're
trying to portray a very balanced view," Perkins said. "In a sense,
whether the creature actually exists isn't as important as the impact
it has had on the people who live out here.
you come here looking for an exhibit poking fun at people or mocking
the story, this is not your exhibit. This is too important to many
people, like the tribal communities, the people out there researching
sasquatch. We want to present those sides of the story as well as
the side about people who are making money off of this."
in the Mountains: The Search for Sasquatch
State History Museum,
1911 Pacific Ave.,
a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays,
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
On the third Thursday of each month, the museum is open until
8 p.m. with free admission from 2-8 p.m.
(18 and over), $8;
Senior (60 and older) $7;
student (6-17 years old) and
family (two adults and up to four children), $25;
child (5 and under) and Historical Society members, free.