From the time I was little, fall time was always the time to tell stories. My late grandmother Lydia told us many Athabascan stories and legends. One of the stories that are mostly hutłanee (taboo) are the ones about woodsman or Bigfoot. Some stories can only be shared in the fall time. I wish I remember more of the stories my grandmother told me when I was a kid.
I struggle sometimes with the things I share about the Koyukon Athabascan culture. I think about karma and don’t want to bring bad luck to me or anyone I know. I also realize that sometimes we need to write about our culture, beliefs, stories, language and history to keep our culture alive. There are a lot of Alaska Native writers and storytellers, but I think there is a lot of room for many more voices.
Over the years, I have heard many stories of Bigfoot or woodsman as some people call it. I also read about some stories from western Alaska of the ‘little men’. I’m curious about it. I am not trying to prove whether or not Bigfoot is real, but am sharing it in honor of Halloween.
I’m going to share one short story about someone who had an experience while getting wood. I’m not going to put any names down, but it is a story that was told to me first hand.
About 20 years ago, two 14 year old boys were getting wood for camp along the interior Alaska. It was summertime and they drove the boat about half a mile from camp. They carried a boy’s axe and chainsaw.
It was a wood yard with spruce trees and a lot of stumps. The wood was good and dry in that area. The cut bank was steep and about eight feet high. They had to climb up the bank.
The first boy carried the axe and the second boy carried the chainsaw. The first boy went to take leak after climbing up the bank. He was by a stump.
When he was done, he turned around and looked at the second boy who was staring in the woods. The second boy mumbled something, and he thought he said “moose”.
The second boy’s eyes got really big. It was like his eyes popped out of his skull and he had a look of extreme fear on his face. The second boy took off at a run down the bank. He threw the chainsaw into the boat and untied it. It was a matter of a few seconds.
When the first boy looked, he thought it was a moose laying down on the ground until he saw the thing stand up. He said, “I turned around and caught a glimpse. I saw it and got scared.” He also took off down the bank. He left the boy’s axe behind leaning on a stump.
The second boy already started the motor and was pulling away from the bank when the first boy got down the bank. The first boy had to jump from the water’s edge to get onto the bow of the boat. He bruised his shins on the bow of the boat.
As they were pulling away, a log about two-three feet long was thrown over the bank. The log landed in the water and made a big splash. They drove back to camp as fast as they could.
When they got back to the camp, the family told them not to say anything about it. An elder burned a little bit of food and prayed in Koyukon Athabascan to protect them.
The next morning when the first boy got up and went to wash his face. He notice the boy’s axe was leaning against the side of the cabin. Seeing the axe there freaked him out a little bit more, just knowing that the thing went into the camp. At the same time, it made him realize that what happened the day before, really happened. The first boy said, “We knew we weren’t just seeing things.”
The first boy only went back to that camp a few times, and the second boy never returned. The first boy described it as ‘big, tall and hairy.’
The first boy was curious about it for years after and asked questions about it. He said, “I was trying to understand what I saw, so I could get over it and move on.” The elder said it was hutłanee, and people shouldn’t play games or mess around with it.
It was a scary experience. The first boy said, “Something did happen 20 years ago. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”