By Alex Visser, WNPA Olympia News Bureau
The mythical Sasquatch, an integral piece of Pacific Northwest folklore, got another shot at recognition this year with a bill that would name it Washington’s official cryptid – a mythical creature whose existence has not been verified by mainstream science. But just as it’s done to so many explorers and scientists, the furry, bipedal creature evaded legislative capture.
Senate Bill 5816 was introduced last year by senator Ann Rivers (R-La Center) but hasn’t made it past the committee stage in the past two legislative sessions. Rivers also filed a bill that would allow for an official Bigfoot license plate. Under Senate Bill 5816, the Sasquatch, also known as “Bigfoot” or “Forest Yeti” according to the bill, would join other local greats like the apple, the steelhead trout and the bluebunch wheatgrass as a Washington state emblem.
Rivers said a third grader in her district asked her to create the bill, but a public hearing was postponed until the senator could bring the child to Olympia to testify. The bill missed the committee hearing cutoff date and will have to wait another year for a chance at passing.
Despite his recent fame caused by the bill, the iconic creature’s relationship with the Pacific Northwest began long ago. Native American and First Nations tribes in the United States and Canada have identified various creatures resembling Sasquatch. The name itself is derived from a word in the Halkomelem language spoken by tribes in British Columbia.
By a substantial margin, Washington is home to more Sasquatch sightings than any other state or province in North America, according to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. Not only that, Washington has another connection to the popular myth: the famous Patterson-Gimlin film, where Bigfoot allegedly walks across the screen. The encounter was filmed in Northern California by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, both locals of the Yakima Valley.
Patterson died of cancer in 1972 and always maintained the authenticity of the film, as has Gimlin, 86, who resides today in Union Gap. Gimlin said he would be excited to see the Sasquatch become an official symbol of his home state, calling it a “special being.”
On January 29, senator Maralyn Chase (D-Edmonds) cited the Patterson-Gimlin film as “evidence” of Bigfoot’s existence when speaking in the Senate Transportation Committee. Chase serves as a member of the committee, which heard Rivers’ license plate bill.
Although Senate Bill 5816 would classify Sasquatch as the official state “cryptid” or “crypto-animal,” Gimlin said he doesn’t see the creatures as animals at all, and likened them instead to hominid “beings,” similar to humans. “I’m no scientist,” he said. “I just believe that we have a ways to go to understand what they really are.”
This isn’t the first Washingtonians have tried to honor Bigfoot – in a 1970 proclamation, former governor Dan Evans called “the Great Sasquatch” to be state’s monster. Evans wrote in his proclamation that Washington was the only state capable of claiming the creature as its own.
Gimlin cemented on the cryptid’s iconic status in the Pacific Northwest, making reference to the vast number of brands, images and merchandise in Washington state that utilize Bigfoot’s name or likeness. He said if the state could come together to bring official recognition to the legend, it would put a smile on his face. “That would make me, as an old man, very happy,” he said. “I think it means a lot to Washington state.”
Note from the editor: Bluff Creek is located in northern California.