Sasquatch As Noble Savage

Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 21st, 2010

“Some have been influenced by the movie Avatar, [Dr. Jeff] Meldrum said, whether they recognize it or not. [Autumn] Williams, for instance, depicts Bigfoot as a kind of noble savage who shuns the use of technology and lives communally.”

In a new examination of the latest Bigfoot contactee story circulating around the field, Diane Dietz writes of the tale and more in her new piece, BIGFOOT BELIEVERS: A symposium draws Sasquatch seekers from across the nation,” published in The Register-Guard of Sunday, June 20, 2010:

An unusual group of hominid was spotted Saturday [June 19, 2010] in the fir-ringed valley at Lane Community College in south Eugene.

Although the skies were sunny, 210 of them gathered in the shade of a lecture hall and exchanged vocalizations on the subject of a bigger, hairier and more elusive and most controversial species — bigfoot.

“One thing these people have in common is determination in the face of societal opposition,” said Jim Kiser, who researches bigfoot from his home in Newberg. “My son thinks I’m crazy and my brother-in-law is less polite. My Ph.D.-in-chemistry friend says he has a bigfoot detector — and it’s a six pack.”

The range of the bigfoot-seeking hominid is national, but, since 2003, large seasonal gatherings have occurred in California, Oklahoma, east Texas and Ohio — where 670 turned up in April, said Jeffery Meldrum, who teaches anatomy at Idaho State University.

“It’s a curious commentary on human nature that there are these sorts of gatherings all over the country,” he said. “It becomes a social network that fills a human need, obviously.”

Saturday’s gathering, called the Oregon Sasquatch Symposium, drew participants from — besides Oregon — Washington, Idaho, California, Nevada, Florida, Texas, Hawaii and New Zealand. The symposium continues today in Building 17 at LCC.

The participants’ habitat — while traveling — is the Red Lion Inn or similar motels. But their ordinary location is out in the woods, listening for unaccounted-for knocks and whoops that might indicate the presence of bigfoot.

“Many of them devote any time they’re off the job,” said Jon Nichols, a Sasquatch researcher and bull breeder from Vancouver, Wash.

Bigfoot followers cannot be distinguished by surface activities, such as career or political affiliation, Nichols said. “You’ll see computer programmers to pipe fitters — a wide spectrum,” he said. “You have everything from the greenies to the rabid conservatives.”

They are tool users, these human bigfoot-seekers. They employ infrared night vision goggles, motion activated cameras, plaster casting kits. Some have developed mobile field research laboratories they tow behind pickup trucks to support their work.

Increasingly, they pursue bigfoot on the Internet, where several websites have cataloged signs and sightings of the elusive animal.

The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, for instance, lists 224 sightings in Oregon, including 13 in Lane County — including details of each encounter.

The bigfoot-seekers refer to themselves as “witnesses” if they’ve glimpsed a bigfoot-type creature and “habituators” if they’ve “come to know these beings,” said Toby Johnson, a University of Oregon student and the symposium organizer. Although, he said, the term “habituator” is fading in favor of “long-term witness.” The group calls itself the “bigfoot community.”

The community has its alpha individuals, who are revered for their experiences, their knowledge of foot- or voice-print — or their ability to rivet an audience to an encounter story.

Robert Gimlin, who shot the most famous bigfoot footage in 1967, was on hand Saturday. So was Meldrum, who is among the most prominent academicians to venture into Sasquatch study, despite the ridicule of university peers.

But the rock star was Autumn Williams, the keynote speaker, who was feted with whoops and cheers. “We are a family,” the slender blond woman said as she started her story, “drawn together by our interests.”

Williams told the story of a 50-year-old bulldozer driver in Florida, who took up residence in a swamp to escape the tragedies in his life.

There, Williams said, he took up a Jane Goodall-style life with a tribe of bigfoot. She referred to him only as “Mike” and said that she was the only human in the world to which he would confide.

Mike is a profane and funny witness, given to playfully calling his friends, the bigfoot — bigfeet? — “snapperheads.”

Williams said Mike would not supply her with a picture because he is wary of the demand for such “evidence,” but he allowed an artist to simulate an image that he verified was close to accurate, she said.

“Oh,” a woman in the audience gasped, when Williams flashed a close-up of the hairy face with luminous eyes, wrinkled nose and broad mouth on the lecture hall screen.

“Wow,” other audience members said.

Williams took questions after her speech, and none were critical, Meldrum noticed. “There were no probing questions, none of that,” he said, later adding: “It reflected the attitude of the audience. They were won over to her story.”

Many bigfoot enthusiasts are fervent — and some range into the realm of anti-science, Meldrum said. At an earlier conference, he said, “I thought I was in a Bible belt meeting in the South.”

The bigfoot-seekers are fairly shy. A half dozen wouldn’t mind sharing their experiences for this story, but not if they were identified by name.

“I just don’t want anybody to know,” said a woman from Spokane.

There are a number of reasons for their reticence, Nichols said. “As a (bigfoot) researcher, your highest priority is to not let anybody know what your doing and keep your mouth shut. They don’t want to be held up to ridicule.”

Another reason, Nichols said, seekers are proprietary about the woods where they do their field research. They don’t want their sites compromised.

“Mike,” the habituator in Florida, must remain secret so his identity doesn’t bring attention and jeopardize the safety of bigfoot — which he calls Enoch, Williams said.

“The big guy comes first,” she said Mike said.

Those who follow bigfoot’s trail tend to assume that the creature they seek is, generally speaking, friendly and intelligent.

Some have been influenced by the movie Avatar, Meldrum said, whether they recognize it or not. Williams, for instance, depicts bigfoot as a kind of noble savage who shuns the use of technology and lives communally.

She juxtaposes bigfoot with man’s image-and-possession obsessed society.

“That’s the politically correct posture for a lot of people,” Meldrum said. “The Sasquatch has chosen a path that’s more pristine and pure.”

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.

9 Responses to “Sasquatch As Noble Savage”

  1. eireman responds:

    To be fair, this mindset has been around longer than Avatar. But the comparison to the Contactee movement among UFO enthusiasts is unavoidable. The same dichotomy exits among reports of Bigoot-like creatures. They fall into two camps: dangerous beasts out to attack us or misunderstood gentle giants from whom we can learn. I think it says far more about humanity that it does any creature roaming the woods – mythical or otherwise. After all, a dolphin is just a dolphin. It’s only humanity that turns it into our adorable friend of the sea, which goes a long way to explaining why people are “shocked” when (although rare) dolphins will attack humans. We anthropomorphize these animals (perhaps because of that upturned “smiling” mouth and gentle demeanor) and project our wants, hopes, and needs on them when they are merely nature, red in tooth and claw.

  2. RandyS responds:

    This the first time I’ve seen the Register-Guard piece, though it was alluded to at the symposium by the moderator. She said that Dr. Meldrum was the most-quoted person in the article, to which he replied that he was the most “misquoted.” I couldn’t say which quotes are incorrect, but the fact that the article contains inaccuracies should be noted.

  3. JungleHusky responds:

    Quote from conclusion:

    “The Sasquatch has chosen a path that’s more pristine and pure.”

    I remember a case where a woman once claimed that a Sasquatch-like creature once abused her. While most sightings occur at a distance, it would be interesting to know the statistics should they ever be uncovered, of humans who have seen a Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeren or Yeti, and have not returned to tell the tale.

    There is plenty of land on this planet, but there are also a lot of humans who are travelling more than ever before thanks to new innovations in transportation. The race to find and document a Sasquatch will be one that likely concludes in the twenty-first century.

  4. Regan Lee responds:

    That article doesn’t do Autumn justice, and Meldrum, at the conference, says he was misquoted. During the Q & A they were sitting next to each other and were getting along. But from that article, if that’s what Meldrum said, I think he misunderstood Autumn’s points.

  5. MattBille responds:

    WIth the greatest respect to Autumn: sasquatch, assuming its existence, is an animal. It has not chosen its path. Even if it were a primitive human – which I think doubtful in the extreme (although it may be true of the almas) – it still didn’t choose between the wilderness and the suburbs. It sticks to habitat it can master.
    Habituators who tell stories of close contact but offer fuzzy reasons for not sharing real evidence even with other sasquatch researchers are people I struggle to believe.
    I am no denier of the romance of nature. I am in awe of so many things in a world I only peripherally understand. Nor do I deny a longing, which sometimes manifests itself even in the most “civilized” and comfortable of us, to choose another path. But we are humans, the only species that CAN choose, or, as far as we know, even think about the choice.
    Cryptozoology is a science focused on looking for real animals. Not because we want to see them in a cage, but because we can’t protect them and their habitat if we don’t know they are there. So I wish everyone the best of luck in the search for the animal. It won’t lose its romance if someday it appears in a scientific journal. Certainly the dolphin has not.

  6. red_pill_junkie responds:

    The meme of the noble savage is a sociological myth founded on certain historical facts, but mainly fueled on emotional Western guilt and a yearning for a path away of senseless consumerism.

    IMO, we shouldn’t fall into the trap of idealizing —or even idolizing— these creatures.

    Most people think we’re dealing with some unknown form of higher primate. Well, looking into the behavior of some of our closest relatives —chimpanzees— should give us pause into our expectations of a higher moral standard among Sasquatches; after all, morality is a human feature highly malleable through time —not too long ago slavery was considered normal among us humans, right? and look at how slow we’ve advanced in giving women equal rights.

    Bottomline, is that Cryptozoology has the potential of morphing into some sort of animistic Gaia-like form of religion among some of us; just like belief in UFOs as vessels piloted by superior & benevolent Space Brothers has become the current spiritual belief of some of the most ardent proponents of extraterrestrial visitation.

    Before canonizing Bigfoot, let’s first prove he exists, OK? 😉

  7. ChrisBFRP responds:

    All I know is that she evidently has never actually seen one of these creatures, because if she had, she’d know her buddy Mike the FL swamp ape whisperer, is full of crapola. I’m thinking some productive time in the field would remedy some gullibility. Nothing against Autumn, but like alot of others, I’m also a show me kinda guy. I’m into field research and not the promotion or writing of fictional books about fictional friendships with cryptids. Without a shred of evidence to support anything, maybe she should write about Mike and his friendship with an alien, Flying saucer rides etc. That stuff sells good. It’s a safe bet E.T. made alot more money than Harry and the Hendersons at the box office. Anyway, point being, if you’re gonna write a fictional account, just say so. The “Bigfoot Knowers” will only be offended by anything that’s obviously B.S. I am.

  8. sharonlee0827 responds:

    The story of Enoch, by Autumn Williams is a great read! From start to finish the reader becomes wrapped up in the world of Mike, who tells the story of his life to Autumn.

    In the fall of 2009, Mike contacted Autumn and began to reveal to her his stories about life with Enoch, his comrade the Skunk Ape.

    Mike tells Autumn about his life and distrust of humanity. He tells her that she is the only bigfoot “researcher/celebrity”, that he can trust.

    He shuns tree-knocking, trail cams and other futile research methods.

    Autumn has never met “Mike” in person.

    Autumn has spent the past 8 months listening to Mike’s stories and ultimately, wrote and self-published her book, which was available for sale at the Oregon Sasquatch Symposium this past weekend.

    One of two things is going to happen after all 4000 bigfoot enthusiasts who purchase bigfoot related books, finish reading.

    If it is a true account, then it is the Holy Grail. Soon to be the Bible of Bigfoot research.

    “If not true, it may be the best piece of Bigfoot fiction I have ever read.”

    Autumn plans to meet Mike in the fall. I wish her a safe and rewarding adventure.

  9. DWA responds:


    You know the problem with this bunch? It’s crypto, without the zoology.

    These believer groups keep science at arms (and clothespin-on-nose) length. And they say, that’s OK, science just doesn’t get this. Good point! Science demands that you back up what you say, with evidence.

    *Struggle* to believe? Matt, I can’t even come that close with this habituation [fertilizer].

    The evidence is compelling. To the uneducated I only need say one thing: scientists with eminent qualifications in the relevant fields agree with me. Slam dunk. If you demand more, you are ignorant and need to read up. Evidence is not proof. But there is more than enough for science to get the proof if it’s interested. The same protocols we use for finding the new species of known animal types that we find every year apply here as well. All science has to do is apply them.

    And folks like the ones we read about here are why science doesn’t.

    And they make the ignoramuses who dishonor skepticism by labeling themselves skeptics look smart.

    Shame, that.

    But it’s what we should expect, you know? The public’s ignorance of nature and how science works is the truly serious bigfooter’s biggest obstacle. We better wish Meldrum lots of luck. ‘Cause he’s going to need it.

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