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The E. Walker Letter

From that year (1840) emerges a fascinating letter from a missionary living in northern Washington. We are indebted to Robert Ruby, M.D., of Moses Lake, Washington, for finding this letter and to the Holland Library of Washington State University for permission to publish it. Of particular interest in the letter—apart from the mention of “giants” that could well have been Bigfeet—are the notations concerning their strength (“they can carry two or three beams upon their back at once”), the size of their feet (“they say their track is about a foot and a half long”) and their smell. As readers will know, many people who have been close to a Bigfoot have noticed the very strong smell that they seem to emit. Both Patterson and Gimlin, who made the 1967 Bigfoot footage, noticed this strong smell and think that it was this that caused their horses to bolt. As to the stone throwing, we have several mentions of this in our records as well as the famous story from Ape Canyon of rock throwing.

To: The Rev. David Green.

Date: April, 1840.

Secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

Dear Sir:

I suppose that it is not necessary for me to say much as Mr. Eeles has given you all that is interesting. My health is very poor and I fear I shall be unable to pursue my labours as a missionary. We are, we hope, doing something in the language. It is, if I may be judge, very difficult and will require much hard study before we have much knowledge and are prepared to make any direct or forcible appeal to them. I should not be at all surprised if this mission prove a total failure. How much more confidence I should have in its success if we had had real opposition to encounter from the Indians at its commencement. We, I fear, are destined to experience some opposition from the old chief I named in my letter last fall. He has been absent most of the time since. He soon after went off to Buffalo and has not yet to my knowledge returned. I left our place last Monday for this place (Fort Colville) and shall leave tomorrow for home, “Deo volente” which I expect to reach in two days.

It has been very sickly in this region the last part of the winter. Many have died. I do not know what can be done to save them from utter extinction. They seem as fated to fade away before the whites as the game of their country. There seems but one way that they can be saved and that is by settling them and civilizing them and this I fear they cannot bear. I sometimes think that it will be as injurious to them as their superstitions which are carrying them off very fast. Whatever is done for them must be quickly done, for there will soon be nothing to labour for. We need to be placed in such a situation that we can devote all our time and energies to them and when that is done we can do little on account of the few that we have access to. I think that I may safely say that the two tribes, Nez Perces and Flat Heads are as well supplied with ministers as New England, that is, there are as many preachers compared to the number of the people. We can only have access to a few at a time. If we travel and visit with them at their places we can have but little influence over them.

I suppose you will bear with me if I trouble you with a little of their superstition, which has recently come to my knowledge. They believe in the existence of a race of giants which inhabit a certain mountain off to the west of us. This mountain is covered with perpetual snow. They inhabit its top. They may be classed with Goldsmith’s nocturnal class and they cannot see in the daytime. They hunt and do all of their work in the night. They are men tealers. They come to the people’s lodges in the night when the people are asleep and take them, and put them under their skins and take them to their place of abode without even waking. When they wake in the morning they are wholly lost, not knowing in what direction their home is. The account that they give of these Giants will in some measure correspond with the Bible account of this race of beings. They say their track is about a foot and a half long. They will carry two or three beams upon their back at once. They frequently come in the night and steal their salmon from their nets and eat the’m raw. If the people are awake they always know when they are coming very near, by their strong smell, which is most intolerable. It is not uncommon for them to come in the night and give three whistles and then the stones will begin to hit their houses. The people believe that they are still troubled with their nocturnal visits.
We need the prayers of the Church at home. I am, My Dear Sir,

Yours most truly and submissively,

E. Walker (Elkanah Walker) Missionary to Spokane Indians.

Taken from The search for Bigfoot. Monster, Myth or Man? by Peter Byrne - Pocket books (1976).