THE SASQUATCH ENCOUNTER AND THE JACK PINES VISION QUEST
Vision quests are a magical experience, a rite of passage and milestone ritual in Native American life. They are a mandatory component of Native American spirituality in building a relationship with the Creator Father. Just as hunting and fishing were essential to our survival, so was prayer and worship. I did say ‘were’ essential. As both practices are disappearing and dying among Native communities as modern life has replaced both. Grocery stores have retired the hunter and dying Medicine Men have lost their potential apprentices to city life. Such realities make me sad to tell such stories—reminiscing about my youth as a Medicine Man’s apprentice.
Going to ceremonies was always exciting for me. A chance to not only escape my depressing life at home, but to socialize and be in a positive environment. Plus, sometimes ceremonies involved feasts, which featured my favorite Cree dishes. And often, a chance to eat. We always ate after the Elders, an unwritten rule of respect. Elders were the great storytellers and leaders. I was fascinated to hear their tales of spirit beings, magic, and paranormal experiences. Especially those involving legendary creatures, such as the sasquatch. The ‘Big Men.’ They would also recount past dreams and interpretations. Although most dreams were kept sacred and secret.
Dreams and visions are seen as powerful messages from the Creator. To receive a vision was an honor and highly sought after through prayer, fasting, and ritual. One such ritual was the Vision Quest. An experience of suffering and humility. Which involves fasting for 4-7 days without food and water at a sacred site alone or in a group.
This particular Vision Quest recollection takes place back home in Northern Alberta—historic land of the Cree Tribe. I was a young man apprenticing to someday become a Medicine Man—one of my great aspirations. I was only too thrilled when I was invited to join three other Medicine Men on a special Vision Quest. Of course, I was invited not only because I was a respected member among them, but I’m sure they needed a young ‘Helper.’ We usually refer to Vision Quests as simply a ‘Fast.’ A vision is not guaranteed. The important part is to humble and suffer oneself.
Most fasts are initiated by a Sweat lodge Ceremony. This is done to enter the ‘spirit world.’ We do half a ceremony, which allows one to enter the state of sacredness, then finish the ceremony upon completion of the Vision Quest. There are four ‘rounds’ in total. This brings us back to the physical world so to speak.
As an Apprentice, I prepared the lodge for the ceremony. This involved building a large pyre to heat up the rocks until they were molten hot. We used anywhere from 24 to 48 melon sized rocks. The sweat lodge was also known as a Purification Sweat Bath, used to cleanse the mind, body, and spirit. Sitting in the total darkness of the lodge, all you see are the bright red rocks and hear the steam as water is splashed atop the rocks. And I made sure the rocks were very hot. I took my apprenticeship very seriously and with love for the Creator. During the ceremony, you shake rattles and hit drums to mimic the heartbeat, while chanting in unison. The chants are beautiful, profound, and often generations old, if not ancient. We all have our favorites. You pray hard and concentrate on your words to ignore the whipping pain of the steam.
We initiated two rounds in the lodge, ate one small meal, and set out on our journey to one of the sacred grounds. There were four of us in total. All still perspiring from the scorching heat of the Sweat Lodge. And no one gets to shower, we just towel off. You get used to it.
We soon reached the entrance to the long trail which was to be a bit of a hike. I was excited as I had never been to this sacred site before. We parked on the side of the road and packed up our medicine bags and bare bones camping gear. Gear which usually only consisted of a rain-proof tarp, an axe, matches, and a sleeping bag. There are no luxuries and distractions permitted on a vision quest. We set foot on our hike and the smells and sounds of the deep boreal forest were enchanting. I loved the smell of home. I was also honored that year to have earned my first sacred pipe, which I proudly carried along the journey.
FLASHBACK—THE ENCOUNTER, A TERRIFYING VISION
I woke up in front of a campfire surrounded by a few others who were still asleep around the fire. It was the pitch-black darkness of a deep forest night. I looked around to see where I was and did not know this place. We were atop a hill, surrounded by a grassy clearing up to an enclosure of dark forested wall of pine and poplar. The trees were barely visible lit by the fire light. It seemed very peaceful. I knew I was on a vision quest.
I then heard a low unrecognizable growl from beyond the tree line. The growls grew in number and started to get louder. Whatever these creatures were, sounded terrifying and in large number. I heard movement in the trees and the snapping of branches and twigs. I yelled to alarm the others and shook someone’s leg to try to wake them up. No one would move nor awaken. I was panicking. Soon a large black shadowy figure stepped out of the tree line, barely visible, but noticeably large. It started to move forward towards me. Soon others followed, creeping forward like a wave of shadows. I heard growls behind me and noticed there were more emerging from every direction. They crawled on all fours, slowly, like an army of shadowy figures.
I was terrified and frozen in a panic. I could not scream or speak. I watched as one distinct large humanoid creature moved closer and closer towards me. Its large white eyes became visible, along with its ape-like shape, and teeth. I was completely surrounded by these creatures. The hill was encircled in what looked like a humanoid army of shadows. I feared an attack, kidnapping, or even death. I looked to the others in one desperate attempt to scream for them to wake up and run or even help. I could not move.
The main humanoid creature reached out its black hairy arm, its hands were huge and apelike. I seen its claws and massive intimidating form in the fire light. All I could think of was that this was a Sasquatch! And why were they so angry, evil, or even surrounding us? I was absolutely terrified. I could only watch as the creature suddenly grabbed my leg firmly and roared.
I suddenly woke up. It was a dream. A terrifying vision. I was also in sleep paralysis. I was breathing hard and couldn’t even speak. I felt an ominous presence in the room. I noticed a tall dark shadowy figure standing at the bedroom doorway, it seemed to laugh quietly, as it turned and walked away down the hall. When my body could finally move, I said a desperate prayer and remained restless for the rest of the night.
PRESENT—HIKE TO THE ANCIENT VISION QUEST SITE
The hike was about a mile into the forest, and it was the perfect weather. The gentle heat of Canadian summer was at its peak and no cloud in sight. I could hear the older men breathing hard from the hike, talking in Cree, one stating that we were nearly there. And soon we emerged into a clearing. They called this place, ‘The Jack Pines.’ An old vision quest site. And as its name indicated, was surrounded by jack pines.
I carefully surveyed the area and was immediately shocked. I was here before! It was the place in my dream with the sasquatch! Everything was as it was in my dream. The hill, the grassy clearing, and surrounding forest. I knew that this meant something significant and that I was in for a powerful experience. The hill was also covered in old willow sweat lodge frames and campfire rock pits. I was told many sleep in the old sweat lodges for an even more powerful experience. So, I did. I laid out my tarp and sleeping bag and sat down.
The other Medicine Men did the same and all promptly took a nap. I could not nap. I did not see the benefit or luxury of a nap back then. I was still young, curious, and rambunctious. I could not get the thought of dreaming of this place out of my mind. It was peaceful and as all fasts went, time seemed to stop, and the sun never moved. Boredom usually sets in for the younger people at this point.
I sat there atop the hill, my mind starting to wander, thinking of what others were doing back home and if anything exciting was happening. I heard the snap of a tree branch in the distance, followed by another. Was someone else here? I looked at the men who were still asleep. I did not want to bother them. Then suddenly, as branches started to shake, a large figure emerged from the trees in the far distance. I was in shock. I looked at the others, unable to speak. The humanoid figure was tall, covered in green mossy fur with reddish brown streaks. It looked like a cedar tree. It was a sasquatch! It had to have been over 10 feet tall.
I tried to speak and wake up the others. They were not budging. How could I be the only one to witness this, I thought? Who would believe me? The sasquatch looked over at me, unconcerned, minding its own business. Then another figure emerged beside it. It was a bit shorter, covered in the same fur, and looked more feminine in shape. The ‘female’ sasquatch was followed by an even smaller one with the same appearance. Is this their child, I thought? It was a sasquatch family! They started advancing together, casually walking by, glancing over to our camp only a couple of times. The younger sasquatch was more curious as it studied us the whole time.
I was in awe. How could the others have missed this for a nap? My vision was true. Sasquatch inhabited this place. As the ‘sasquatch family’ disappeared into the other side of the clearing, and the ‘sighting’ was over, the others awoke. Excited, I tried to explain what I had just seen and what they missed. They all just smiled and affirmed, they live around here. I complained how they wouldn’t wake up. One medicine man said, “Sometimes it’s only meant for you to see. You can try to wake up others, but they are put into a deep sleep. And sometimes you are put to sleep specifically to see things in a dream. So never fight sleepiness, you might be missing out on a vision or a message.”
I will never forget this Sasquatch encounter, nor the related vision which brought me ‘spiritually’ there—before I was ‘physically’ there. There are innumerable lessons and messages brought to you in not only your individual physical life, but through your sole dreams, visions, and mysterious experiences. Always have not only a discerning mind, but a curious and hungry one. I now walk the path directed by the Messiah and guided by the Torah. These experiences greatly fascinate me and inspire me to study more about the seen and unseen realms; the unknown mysteries and knowledge.
Sean Walking Bear