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Bigfoot debate: Spirit or science?

‘Sasquatch & Spirituality’ presented at Discovery Center

Mel Skahan enlists help from the audience to re-enact his camp encounter during the “Sasquatch & Spirituality” lecture at the Discovery Center on Nov. 10.

Jim Drake photo
Mel Skahan enlists help from the audience to re-enact his camp encounter during the “Sasquatch & Spirituality” lecture at the Discovery Center on Nov. 10.


Mel Skahan holds a bent limb from the forest that is thought to be a trail marker made by the elusive Bigfoot creature.

Here’s an interesting question: If you had hair samples from a Bigfoot creature in your possession would you send it to a laboratory for DNA analysis, or would you return those hairs back to its rightful owner?

Last Friday night the Discovery Center hosted a lecture by Mel Skahan, called “Sasquatch & Spirituality.” Mel is a forester for the Yakama Nation, and he’s worked outdoors in that postion for over 20 years.

Mel is known as the go-to guy when you need to report a Bigfoot sighting on the Yakama reservation. To date, he says that aproximately 860 sightings have taken place. And during his job as a Forestry Inventory Tech — a job that takes him deep into the wilderness of the Mt. Adams area — he himself once sighted the creature.

The auditorium was packed, with some folks standing on the sides for the duration of the talk, which ran almost three hours.

On the stage, a tent was set up, and Mel asked for two audience participants to come up and lie down in the tent, pretending to be camping out in the wilds of Southeast Utah.

Mel then told the story of his camping roadtrip in 2016 in which, one night, about 3 a.m., he awoke to something shaking his tent. He demonstrated how the tent was being pushed down from the outside several times, so the campers inside could get a feel for what happened.

Mel said this activity went on for about an hour. But he was too frightened to go outside and look, even with the knives and other weapons he had brought along with him. He said he heard their familiar growls and vocalalizations, and he believed that there were two Bigfoot creatures in his campsite. He finally activated the alarm on his car with his keychain, and he says he heard the creatures run away.

Mel said that there is an unwritten law of the Yakama Nation that discourages its members from talking about the Bigfoot phenomena. He said the tribal elders have always taught that any creature on their land, or on the earth for that matter, exists for a reason and that they should be allowed to live in harmony with the tribe. “We pray and respect all the things,” Mel said.

That concept came into play when he described an incident in his life that involved returning what can only be described as possible physical evidence of one of the creatures.

Mel was in the forest one day, and he came upon what he described as a Bigfoot nest. He said the nest was woven together with a particular kind of fir tree, and that there was hair rubbed into the walls of the nest. He collected some of the hair samples.

Mel said that he put the hair samples in a desk drawer for a long time and over time, nearly forgot about them. Eventually the sample resurfaced, and Mel sought guidance from tribal elders on what to do with the material.

Mel then described a surreal “house cleansing” ceremony that involved dark rooms, visions and the sound of “dancing footsteps” of the creature. The elders said “the creature was mad that (you) took the hair, and he wants it back.”

Throughout the evening, Mel used his voice to imitate the sounds the Bigfoot creatures made. Strong-pitched erie howling, whistling, grunts and growls. Theories swirl - can it be communication of warning? Contact with other creatures? Territorial?

Mel has heard continuous “knocking” sounds by the creatures, for up to one hour.

With a toy hand puppet, Mel held his granddaughter onstage and showed her “Biggie Small,” representing how he was introducing the younger generation to the Bigfoot creature. The legend of this creature continues to be dicsussed through a reservation radio show, (KYNR Yakama Nation radio) with the staff to help with questions and answers.

Mel held up a bent tree branch — he claims that the branch cannot be bent this particular way by a human or any other natural activity, but can only be bent by the strength, and height, of a Bigfoot creature. He believes these are trail markers that Bigfoot makes throughout the forest, and he has seen many of them on the tribal land he helps manage.

There was one more guest speaker at this lecture. Still residing in the Northwest, Bob Gimlin is 86 years old, and he said right off the bat that he could probably talk for hours about what happened to him and his friend Roger Patterson on Oct. 20, 1967, when they allegedly came upon a Bigfoot creature in northern California and managed to take some film footage of the incident.

If you’re interested in the story there are plenty of internet sites that describe the film. But it’s also featured in a book that I recently came across, that came out in 1975. It’s called “The Search for BigFoot, Monster, Myth or Man?” by Peter Byrne. By the way, The Dalles and the surrounding Wasco County areas are featured prominently in text and photos, as The Dalles hosted a BigFoot Information Center for a time. Also of note, three gentlemen reported a sighting at the Pinewood Mobile Manor, but it was interesting to note that one of the fellows refused to talk about the experience to the author. I actually mentioned this to one of the lecture-goers, his name was Kevin and he was from Vancouver. He was quite surprised about that story.

Anyway, Bob was certainly adamant about what he saw that day. But more importantly, it seemed, I got the feeling that he was truly appreciative that a crowd of people was there to gather and talk about the phenomena, whether each individual there believed or not.

He mentioned that the next conference of Bigfoot enthusiasts would be in Kennewick, Wash., in 2018. And, he signed my book!

Mel has been tracking Bigfoot sightings for 20 years. He has purchased specialized gear for tracking — advanced thermal imagers and special night-time binoculars. But after he returned the hair samples to the nest, his energy for wanting to prove to the world the existence of the creature had re-focused into a line of thinking that is more tribal elder-based: He doesn’t want to try and record evidence or take any more items.

Mel says that when he returned the hair sample, the creature told him in its signature way of howling, that Bigfoot understood what had been returned, — a spiritual connection had been made, and no more researching was necessary.


Rictor 3 months, 3 weeks ago

This news story is loaded with typos. Shameful.


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