Monday, January 28, 2013

Bigfoot on the Umatilla Reservation

Something is disturbing the sleep of residents in a normally quiet corner of north eastern Oregon.  It started in November of 2012 and has continued into 2013.  Late at night, strange screams echo out across the Umatilla Indian Reservation.  Residents describe the noise as a roaring and screeching that sounds like nothing they’ve ever heard from area wildlife.  The odd sounds seem to come from a brushy swamp located on the reservation, east of Pendleton, Oregon.  The sounds range from high pitch to low bass roars.  Some members of the Confederated tribes believe the sounds are being made by the legendry beast known as Bigfoot.

The Umatilla Indian Reservation is located in north eastern Oregon, not far from the Washington border.  Most of the reservation is in Umatilla county, with a very small part extending south into Union county.  It’s owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation who also own and operate the Wildhorse Resort and Casino on the property.  The reservation was established for three Sahaptin speaking native American tribes (the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla) who traditionally inhabited the Columbia plateau.  The reservation is home to about 1500 people.

The Blue Mountains which run through this region of Oregon have long been thought to be a hotbed of Bigfoot activity.  The current noises seem to be centered in a swampy area that borders the old reservation community of Mission, in a canyon north of the Wildhorse Casino.

The tribal housing authority has been getting a lot of calls about the strange cries.  Colleen Chance, an employee at tribal housing captured a recording of the sounds and keeps it on her iPhone.  “It’s kind of spooky, some say it’s foxes, some say it’s a female coyote and some say it’s Sasquatch.  I don’t know what it is.” 

The housing authority continues to receive calls about the disturbance because the cries continue from time to time.

Sylvia Minthorn lives with her mother Denise in a tribal housing unit near the swamp.  She says that as a child, she used to play in the area where the strange sounds come from.  She once thought about going into the swamp to find the source of the cries.  “..but then I thought, what if I do find something, then what am I going to do?”

“It’s causing an uproar around here,” said Sylvia, she’s seen grown men’s hair stand on end when the shrieks commence.  Her mother, Denise, thinks that whatever is in the swamp is calling to another creature somewhere else on the reservation.  She says that she’s heard shrieks from two directions at once as if two animals were communicating.  “It was no noise I’ve ever heard before.  It was like bar room brawls and laughter.”

Josh Franken, interim director of the tribal housing authority reports that some residents admit being afraid of the sounds.  “One man said that his dogs were too terrified to go outside.  This guy was rather scared himself.  A rumor quickly spread that the cries were made by a young bigfoot that had got separated from the rest of his clan.”

Carl Sheeler, wildlife program manager for the tribes doesn’t seem to think much of the reports.  He says there are several animals in the region known for making strange noises.  “That wetland is a perfect place to have an echoing call sound eerie” he states.  Sheeler says the first time a person hears a fox or cougar calling in the night, it raises the hair on the back of your neck.

Marcus Luke is a housing authority home ownership counselor.  He’s also a longhouse drummer and singer who follows the Washat, or Seven Drums religion.  He doesn’t dismiss the sounds to quickly. 

“It’s difficult to shrug off the accounts.  Many on the reservation are woodsy type folks familiar with animals and not prone to taking fright at nighttime commotion.  Bigfoot is part of the tribal culture tradition and spiritual beliefs.  We have stories about it.”

Sylvia Minthorn dismisses notions that the screams are the sounds of a known animal.  “Foxes do sound creepy, but it’s not the same sound, not even close.”

Sylvia’s uncle, Armand Minthorn, is a tribal spiritual leader who believes he found evidence of Bigfoot years ago in the Blue Mountains.  While hunting, Armand found footprints on a road.  “Right in the middle of the road was this great big footprint, perhaps 16 to 18 inches long and manlike.  The enormous stride carried it across the road leaving one footprint in the middle.”

As for the current shrieks, Armand believes they could be anything.  “We probably will never know what made those sounds” he said.

This is not the first time that residents of a reservation have been disturbed by strange unidentified animal sounds.  In 2011, members of the Navajo Nation around Crownpoint, NM were plagued by eerie howls from a creature dubbed the “Crownpoint Howler.”  The sounds continued for some time and were even captured in an episode of the reality show “Navajo Cops.”

To hear a recording of the Oregon sounds, click here:

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