Sasquatch: A North American Legend

Popov Leather keychains in four different colors depicting the new Sasquatch design

Last month we introduced a new Sasquatch design on our coasters and keychains. This month, we want to dive into the design a little more.

As a company, we take pride in producing locally-sourced, handcrafted leather accessories. We exclusively use full-grain, US-tanned leather, and our manufacturers work together in our Canada-based workshop.

Sasquatch is a local lore that is tied to the history and culture of North America. So when we considered a new design for our coasters and keychains, it made a lot of sense to tie it to this local myth. 

What's the Legend Behind Sasquatch?

If you’re new to the legend of Sasquatch, or you find yourself confusing Sasquatch with other creatures like Yeti, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know about this elusive creature.

A close-up illustration of what Sasquatch

Sasquatch’s Origin Story

The term “Sasquatch” is actually an anglicized version of the word “Sasq’ets”, which comes from the Halq’emeylem language spoken by certain indigenous tribes in what is now known as British Columbia. The word means “wild man” or “hairy man” and was coined by a man named J.W. Burns in the 1930s.

But that’s not the first time anyone had claimed to see this creature. Both Native Americans and early white settlers in the Pacific Northwest region documented encounters with “large, hairy men”. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, settlers even managed to snag grainy photographs of something large moving through the forests. And over the years, there have been plenty of sightings of large footprints — some with claws, and others more humanoid in appearance — in the woods.

The Sts’ailes First Nation has rock paintings of Sasq’ets dating back hundreds of years. In some stories passed down by indigenous tribes, versions of Sasquatch are depicted as having a connection to the spiritual world. In other stories, they are made out to be almost monstrous, preventing people from going on hunts and causing lean winters. 

FUN FACT: One Cherokee legend talks of Tsul ‘Kalu (Cherokee Devil), a version of Sasquatch purported to have married a young girl. Later, Tsul ‘Kalu often took the blame for bad things that happened in the tribe. 

A Sasquatch By Any Other Name

Although we tend to use the term “Sasquatch” here at Popov Leather, there have been a number of names for this cryptid over the years.

Most indigenous tribes in the Pacific Northwest have some name for the creature. The Wenatchee people call Sasquatch “Choanito,” which translates to “Night People,” while the Upper Stalo people use the term “Slalakums” or “The Unknown.” 

Some of these names are based on region-specific sightings of Sasquatch, from the Skunk Ape in Florida to Grassman in Ohio. In Arkansas, there’s a creature called “The Fouke Monster” who got its name from the town of Fouke where the creature was thought to have attacked a family.

FUN FACT:  The 1972 film The Legend of the Boggy Creek was based on The Fouke Monster. 

One of the most well-known alternatives to the name Sasquatch is Bigfoot. This term was coined in 1958 by Andrew Genzoli, who published a piece in the Humboldt Times

The article referenced a letter someone had sent in about loggers in California who had seen unexplainably large footprints. Genzoli meant it to be a lighthearted read, and can be quoted as saying it “made a good Sunday morning story.” Intentionally or not, this fluff piece sparked conversation, and the legend of Bigfoot was born. 

A picture of a large footprint in the mud

Sasquatch vs. Yeti: Are They the Same?

Some people make the mistake of thinking that “yeti” is yet another name for Sasquatch, but this is actually not true. While Sasquatch and Yeti share similarities — namely, they’re both large, ape-like cryptids — they’re not exactly the same.

Sasquatch, aka BigFoot, is a North American legend popular in the Pacific Northwest. The Yeti — also referred to as the Abominable Snowman — is a legend that hails from the Himalayan Mountains.

Sasquatch and Yeti are also notably different in appearance. Sasquatch is taller and more muscular, with brown, black, or auburn hair and human-like facial features. Yeti, on the other hand, is slightly smaller and more animalistic in appearance, with black, red, or white fur and sharp teeth.

Of course, as neither creature has been located, it’s possible that they are two separate varieties for similar creatures — the difference between a Polar Bear and a Grizzly Bear, for example. 

Artistic illustration comparing the appearance of a Sasquatch to that of a Yeti

What Makes the Legend of the Sasquatch So Compelling?

Sasquatch is a cryptid. Some people genuinely believe Sasquatch exists; others believe it’s a fun story. But despite legends of Sasquatch dating back for centuries, this creature has not been confirmed by any scientific community. So what makes this legend so compelling? 

Scientific Inquiry

Humans are hardwired for curiosity. If we don’t understand something, our DNA compels us to seek out answers. For many of the people who believe in Sasquatch, this curiosity drives their interest. 

An article put out by Berkeley points out that many Sasquatch believers are people who have seen something that looks like Sasquatch and want to prove that what they saw was real. While naysayers may be quick to dismiss sightings as large bears, for some people, these explanations don’t match their experiences. 

Illustration of a Sasquatch hiding in a forest, blending into the trees

Trying to get photos of Sasquatch or other scientific proof is a method for resolving this discrepancy. Even if the exploration isn’t fruitful, it’s no different than any other form of scientific inquiry, and is grounded in a quest for knowledge.

Discovering a new creature isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, either. Scientists discover new animal species all the time. Many of these animals — just like Sasquatch — are already known to and accepted by indigenous tribes. And not all recently-discovered species are small, either. The Saola — also referred to as the Asian Unicorn — was discovered as recently as 1992 and is approximately 85 cm long. 

 FUN FACT: The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization has been compiling evidence about Sasquatch’s existence since the 1990s in an attempt to uncover the truth. 

It’s also possible that Sasquatch existed at one point and has since gone extinct. Unicorns, once thought to be a purely mythical creature, were recently confirmed by scientists to have existed alongside humans thousands of years ago. 

Cultural Beliefs

Humans are social creatures, and are most likely to believe things if the people surrounding them believe as well. 

Belief in Sasquatch is most apparent in California. There have been over 430 Sasquatch sightings in California since the 1940s, and annual festivals and parades ensure that the idea of Sasquatch is a regular part of California culture. When a lot of people in one area believe in Sasquatch, others may be compelled to believe because, frankly, it would feel weird if they didn’t believe. 

The same is true for indigenous tribes with spiritual beliefs related to the existence of Sasquatch. Many tribes believe, or once believed, that Sasquatch had supernatural powers, and these beliefs shaped their culture. Individuals raised in these cultures have more reasons than others to believe Sasquatch currently exists or existed once. 

FUN FACT: Another Cherokee legend says that Tsul ‘Kalu was a mind-reader. Modern witnesses often claim to lose periods of time after seeing Bigfoot. This is similar to reports of alien abductions. 

Why We Love Sasquatch at Popov Leather

While we’re not going to claim to believe — or not believe — in Sasquatch, at Popov Leather, we’re compelled by the mystery around this creature. Ultimately, whether Sasquatch currently exists and hasn’t been discovered yet, once existed but has gone extinct, or never existed at all, there’s no argument that this cryptic creature has had an impact on the culture in North America, and especially in the Pacific Northwest. 

At Popov Leather, we take pride in our local roots. It’s why we choose to invest our money in US-tanned leather, and it’s why we craft our accessories by hand in our Canada-based workshop. Our new Sasquatch design is yet another nod to our roots; an appreciation for our culture. We’re excited to share that appreciation with our customers. 

We’ll probably never see the real Sasquatch in our lifetime. But you can certainly spot its facsimile in your home with these coasters and keychains. 

Article by Ryan Popoff

Ryan Popoff is the creative mind behind Popov Leather wallets, iPhone cases, belts, watch bands and journals since 2013. With a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts, my leatherworking journey began at home. I wanted to create a simple leather wallet that could fit into my front pocket and — to my delight — it was a hit with family and friends. Hopefully you love our honest, quality leather goods too! Reach out with questions.

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1 comment

Mike Tuppen

Mike Tuppen

The Nelson sasquatch is probably just Ryan on days he doesn’t shave….wandering naked in the woods.

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