Bend’s High Desert Museum exhibit “Sensing Sasquatch” is up for all to explore Sasquatch’s past, present and future in the High Desert region through an Indigenous lens.

What does Sasquatch — also known as Bigfoot — represent to you? The unknown? Adventure? Mystery?

Native peoples of the Plateau have long known about, encountered, depicted and told stories about Sasquatch.  “Sasquatch has captivated people in the region and, indeed, throughout the world,” says Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “However, what many people don’t know is that Native Americans have had deeper relationships with Sasquatch throughout time.”

Works by five Indigenous artists will be on view, including: Phillip Cash Cash, Ph.D. (Nez Perce, Cayuse), HollyAnna CougarTracks DeCoteau Littlebull (Yakama, Nez Perce, Cayuse, Cree), Charlene “Tillie” Moody (Warm Springs), Frank Buffalo Hyde (Nez Perce, Onondaga) and Rocky LaRock (Salish).

The original word for Sasquatch is “Sasq’ets,” which comes from the Halq’emeylem language of Coast Salish First Nation peoples from southwestern British Columbia. Sasquatch is bipedal and much taller than a human. Sasquatch’s habitat is often associated with the wet rainforests of the coastal Pacific Northwest, but Sasquatch also lives beyond the green, lush climate. In the High Desert region, Sasquatch strides among the dry canyonlands, ponderosa pine forests and shrublands.

Visitors will be introduced to the Indigenous Plateau of the High Desert and the arid forests and canyonlands where Native peoples have long come into contact with and exchanged stories about Sasquatch. Folks can see representations, stories and artwork about Sasquatch and how they vary between tribes and across regions. A contemporary carved mask by Rocky LaRock (Salish) shows visitors that knowledge of Sasquatch is both ancient and contemporary, and a digital language map shows the various names for Sasquatch across the Indigenous Plateau and beyond.

Many Indigenous people say that a Sasquatch encounter is a blessing. Sasquatch as a conscious being with the agency to communicate with humans is shown in direct opposition to the popular view of Sasquatch as shy and who runs and hides when humans approach. Phillip Cash Cash’s (Nez Perce, Cayuse) commissioned 13 “Bigfoot Rattle,” made of cottonwood, that Sasquatch would use. Cash Cash is an artist, writer, endangered language advocate and linguistic anthropology scholar. As a fluent Nez Perce speaker, he works with communities and professional organizations on projects of cultural advocacy, identity and communication.

Other art shows visitors that Sasquatch is a being that exists in the past, present and future. Sasquatch has appeared in Indigenous artworks and stories for thousands of years and this continues today. Frank Buffalo Hyde’s (Nez Perce, Onondaga) commissioned large-scale futuristic Sasquatch painting with 3-D relief elements will illustrate the perception of Sasquatch as an interdimensional enigma who lurked in the forest for millennia to a modern being that continues to live among humans in the present. Buffalo Hyde attended the Santa Fe Fine Arts Institute and Institute of American Indians Arts in New Mexico. His artwork, he says on his website, combines modern culture and technology with Indigenous themes and tradition.

Picture collage of Sensing Sasquatch exhibit at High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.

“Sensing Sasquatch” includes a yearlong series of associated public programs at the Museum. More information can be found HERE.