Battle Between a Sasquatch and a Bear
The following is a classic Canadian Sasquatch story written by the late J.W. Burns, an Irish-Canadian schoolteacher who worked as the Indian agent at the Chehalis Reserve near Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia, throughout the 1920s and ‘30s. The natives with whom he worked told Burns stories about the hairy wild giants said to haunt the surrounding mountains, which still made appearances from time to time in the Agassiz-Harrison Valley. Burns began to write about these stories, and some of the articles he wrote eventually made their way into print.
One of Burns’ stories appeared in the March 2nd, 1938 issue of the Chilliwack Progress, a newspaper based out of Chilliwack, British Columbia, just southwest of the Chehalis Reserve. This piece was entitled “A Hairy Giant Sasquatch and Huge Black Bear Engage in Mortal Combat,” and unfolds just as the title purports.
“The story of this unusual drama of the wilderness,” as the article put it, began one evening in late February, 1938, when three local natives went out for a stroll along the banks of the Chehalis River, a narrow mountain waterway which empties into the Harrison River near the Chehalis Reserve, which, in turn, drains into the Fraser River to the south. The lower seven kilometers of the Chehalis River run along a timbered flat, while its upper stretch, which cuts through the rugged Douglas Mountains, forms what is referred to as the Chehalis Canyon.
While walking along the shores of the Chehalis River not far from the terminus of the Chehalis Canyon, the three natives were startled by a terrific noise in the forest. “We were on our way home after an all-day unsuccessful hunt in the Chehalis Mountains,” said Jimmy Craneback, one of the witnesses. “We had just crossed the government road at the Chehalis River- a mile or so north of the Indian village, when all at once we heard a roar in the forest ahead of us that shook the firs and cedars around and startled the crows and bluejays from their roost. We stopped to listen. Down the old trail ahead of us, we could hear groans, growls, thuds and the snap and crack of rotten branches as if Old Nick himself [that is, the Devil] had gone off his noodle and was running amuck through the dark forest.”
Fearing that a Chehalis elder might have had a run-in with a hungry bear fresh from hibernation while out collecting roots for basket-making, the hunters unshouldered their rifles and headed in the direction of the unnerving racket.
“Fifty yards or so down the wooded trail,” Craneback continued, “we came upon a sight that made our eyes pop. In awe we stopped dead in our tracks. In the fading twilight and shadowy forest we first thought we were looking on two bears fighting each other to the death. As we stood beside a log twenty yards away, we could see the great struggle of strength. There was a crunching of bones as the monsters in their rage came to grips with each other and tumbled and tossed about in their fury on the forest floor within a few feet of the Chehalis. But there was something about one of the monsters that puzzled us.”
The wild animals rolled towards the Chehalis River as they grappled with each other on the forest floor. Eager to avail themselves of such large came before they fell into the water and became irretrievable, the hunters raised their rifles and prepared to shoot, when one of the animals bellowed an articulation which sounded almost human. When Burns asked Jimmy Craneback to attempt to replicate the sound he had heard, the native said that it sounded something like the syllables “poo-woo-uoo.”
The astonished hunters held their fire, realizing that one of the combatants was a Sasquatch, one of the legendary wildmen of the mountains. One of the friends, named Ike Joe, suggested that they take the side of the Sasquatch, since “it’s well to be on their side.” Burns appears to have implied that the hunters alleged to have assisted the Sasquatch in his battle with the bear, but whether they did so with their rifles or physically threw themselves into the fray, the Indian agent did not specify.
After a ferocious brawl lasting what the hunters estimated to be ten minutes, the Sasquatch wrapped his hairy arms around the bruin’s throat and squeezed the life out of it. “It must have been a hum-dinger of a hold,” said Jimmy Craneback, “for the bear began to gasp for breath, and gasping, pawed the air as his tongue was hanging out. The wild man had won the fight. With a grunt, he flung the carcass of the bear into the river.”
“It was a skookum fight,” Craneback concluded, “skookum” being a Chinook Jargon word meaning powerful or impressive, “and as no one of our little party had ever seen a hairy giant of the Sasquatch in a fight before, I’m telling you we got the biggest kick of our life.”
- “A Hairy Giant Sasquatch and Huge Black Bear Engage in Mortal Combat,” in the March 2nd, 1938 issue of the Chilliwack Progress, courtesy of Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra
- July 2017 issue of the BCSCC Quarterly