December 3, 2006

Bigfoot = “Digger Indian”?

Is M. K. Davis a racist? Of course not. But what are we to make of what he is saying? That question sounds shocking, doesn’t it? Well, I think you will be surprised by what I, a part Eastern Band Cherokee man, find myself forced to post today. I have to be forthright to paint this picture clearly, so there will be absolutely no confusion about what is being discussed.

M. K. Davis recently made some revelations that he now considers Bigfoot to be nothing more than a “human.” This stirred up a great intellectual debate at this site, on email lists, and on forums about whether Davis meant hominid, or were some forms of Homo to be considered “human.” Or even what “human” means. See recent postings “Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot = A Hairy Human?” and “More On Bigfoot = Human?” detailing those statements, with the attached comments.

Has M. K. Davis now thrown a “Michael Richards” incident into the middle of the whole study of Bigfoot with some new enhancements or probing of his theory? Has Davis walked into a minefield of racism in his latest remarks, showing that he has little basis for his original insights? Does his most recent revealing statements reflect a complete lack of knowledge about the historical square peg he is trying to fit Bigfoot into – a racist one?

Roger Knights, Seattle Bigfooter, shares this:

M. K. Davis was on the X-Zone talk-show 11/30/06 in an interview with Rob McConnell. It’s archived at X-Zone Archive, where you can click on a link to replay the 4-hour interview. He indicated there that his candidate was a surviving digger Indian of the type the Spanish encountered, or heard tell of, when their ships explored the California coast long ago.

Perhaps M. K. Davis, who lives in a part of the country far removed from California and does not have a background in anthropology, is unaware that the employment of the term “Digger Indian” is based on a rather well-documented history of it being used as a highly offensive racial epithet?

Seen below is an archival photograph from the Library of Congress that is labeled “Digger Indian Squaw.” The term “digger” points to Native Californians who have been demeaned via a word that rhymes with another one that has been used in American racism.

LofC Indian

Consider the following academic examination of “digger” from The Scientist, immediately following the image of Bigfoot from the Patterson-Gimlin footage, which may be compared to the Native person above, who are both females:

Patterson Gimlin Bigfoot Film

When the gold-seeking Forty-Niners poured into California during the last century, they had little respect for the native people they encountered. Secure in their belief of racial and religious superiority, they mockingly called the Native Americans of the area “diggers” when they saw them foraging for roots and bulbs. Pinus sabiniana’s common name originated when the prospectors noted the tree’s value to California Indians.

Understandably, many Native Americans find the term digger offensive. A spokesman…for the California State Native American Heritage Commission says, “The word ‘digger’ is very derogatory and insulting to California Indian people.” A historical interpreter…for the California State Indian Museum in Sacramento agrees: “To call a California Indian a ‘digger’ means you are either ignorant or you are purposely trying to insult him. It is a very derisive word.” These observers concur in the opinion that the term digger is as offensive to California’s Native Americans as the term nigger is to African Americans.


Next, consider the definition found within The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05, which states: Digger Indians Term indiscriminately applied to many Native Americans of the central plateau region of W North America, including tribes in Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and central California. The name is supposedly derived from the fact that they dug roots for food. It has no ethnological significance and was a term of opprobrium.

Let me save you the time looking up the specific and formal meaning of “opprobrium”; here it is:

opprobrium \uh-PRO-bree-uhm\, noun: 1. Disgrace; infamy; reproach mingled with contempt. 2. A cause or object of reproach or disgrace.

When people discussed the so-called “Digger Indians,” it was the apex of racism. Take for instance this description by O. P. Fitzgerald:

The Digger Indian holds a low place in the scale of humanity. He is not intelligent; he is not handsome; he is not very brave. He stands near the foot of his class, and I fear he is not likely to go up any higher. It is more likely that the places that know him now will soon know him no more, for the reason that he seems readier to adopt the bad white man’s whisky and diseases than the good white man’s morals and religion…I said he was not handsome, and when we consider his rusty, dark-brown color, his heavy features, fishy black eyes, coarse black hair, and clumsy gait, nobody will dispute the statement. But one Digger is uglier than another, and an old squaw caps the climax.

The following appears to be another typical example:

Digger Indians

…The Digger has a good appetite, and he is not particular about his eating. He likes grasshoppers, clover, acorns, roots, and fish. The flesh of a dead mule, horse, cow, or hog, does not come amiss to him–I mean the flesh of such as die natural deaths. He eats what he can get, and all he can get. In the grasshopper season he is fat and flourishing. In the suburbs of Sonora I came one day upon a lot of squaws, who were engaged in catching grasshoppers. Stretched along in line, armed with thick branches of pine, they threshed the ground in front of them as they advanced, driving the grasshoppers before them in constantly increasing numbers, until the air was thick with the flying insects. Their course was directed to a deep gully, or gulch, into which they fell exhausted. It was astonishing to see with what dexterity the squaws would gather them up and thrust them into a sort of covered basket; made of willow-twigs or tule-grass, while the insects would be trying to escape; but would fall back unable to rise above the sides of the gulch in which they had been entrapped. The grasshoppers are dried, or cured, for winter use. A white man who had tried them told me they were pleasant eating, having a flavor very similar to that of a good shrimp. (I was content to take his word for it.)

When Bishop Soule was in California, in 1853, he paid a visit to a Digger campoody (or village) in the Calaveras hills. He was profoundly interested, and expressed an ardent desire to be instrumental in the conversion of one of these poor kin. It was yet early in the morning when the Bishop and his party arrived, and the Diggers were not astir, save here and there a squaw, in primitive array, who slouched lazily toward a spring of water hard by. But soon the arrival of the visitors was made known, and the bucks, squaws, and papooses, swarmed forth.


The scattered remnants of the Digger tribes were gathered into a reservation in Round Valley, Mendocino county, north of the Bay of San Francisco, and were the
re taught a mild form of agricultural life, and put under the care of Government agents, contractors, and soldiers, with about the usual results. One agent, who was also a preacher, took several hundred of them into the Christian Church. They seemed to have mastered the leading facts of the gospel, and attained considerable proficiency in the singing of hymns. Altogether, the result of this effort at their conversion showed that they were human beings, and as such could be made recipients of the truth and grace of God, who is the Father of all the families of the earth. Their spiritual guide told me he had to make one compromise with them–they would dance. Extremes meet–the fashionable white Christians of our gay capitals and the tawny Digger exhibit the same weakness for the fascinating exercise that cost John the Baptist his head.

There is one thing a Digger cannot bear, and that is the comforts and luxuries of civilized life. A number of my friends, who had taken Digger children to raise, found that as they approached maturity they fell into a decline and died, in most cases of some pulmonary affection. The only way to save them was to let them rough it, avoiding warm bed-rooms and too much clothing. A Digger girl belonged to my church at Santa Rosa, and was a gentle, kind-hearted, grateful creature. She was a domestic in the family of Colonel H–. In that pleasant Christian household she developed into a pretty fair specimen of brunette young womanhood, but to the last she had an aversion to wearing shoes.

The Digger seems to be doomed. Civilization kills him; and if he sticks to his savagery, he will go down before the bullets, whisky, and vices of his white fellow-sinners.

Sorry, but the above text about the demeaningly named “Digger Indians” hardly seems be about Bigfoot, at all, to me.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

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