The mythical Sasquatch, an integral piece of Pacific Northwest folklore, got another shot at recognition this year with a bill that would name the creature Washington’s official state cryptid. But just as it has done to so many explorers and scientists, the furry, bipedal creature once again evaded legislative capture.
In case you didn’t know, a cryptid is a creature of folklore or myth whose existence has not been verified.
Senate Bill 5816 was introduced last year by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, but has not made it past the committee stage in either of the past two legislative sessions. The bill is one of two pieces of Bigfoot legislation, along with another Rivers bill that would create a Bigfoot license plate.
The Sasquatch would join other local greats like the apple, the steelhead trout and the bluebunch wheatgrass as Washington state emblems.
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 cutoff date for committee hearings and will have to wait until next year to earn another chance at passing.
Bigfoot’s relationship with the Pacific Northwest has been prominent since long before Rivers filed bills addressing the mysterious hominid.
Native American and First Nations tribes in the United States and Canada have told of various creatures resembling Sasquatch, and the name itself is derived from a word in the Halkomelem language spoken by tribes in British Columbia.
According to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, Washington state is home to more Sasquatch sightings than any other state or province in North America, by a substantial margin.
Washington has another connection to the popular myth through 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, 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, callingit a “special being.” Gimlin today is something of a legend to members Sasquatch believers, as he continues to tour North America, signing autographs and speaking to thousands of attendees at Bigfoot festivals.
Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds, cited the Patterson-Gimlin film as “evidence” of Bigfoot’s existence when speaking in the Senate Transportation Committee on Jan. 29. Chase serves as a member of the committee, which heard Rivers’ license plate bill.
Although SB 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,” Gimlin said. “I just believe that we have a ways to go to understand what they really are.”
Washington state has already honored Bigfoot at least once, as former Gov. Dan Evans in 1970 proclaimed “the Great Sasquatch” to be state monster. Evans wrote in his proclamation that Washington was the only state capable of claiming the creature to be its own.
Gimlin made reference to the vast number of brands, images and merchandise in Washington state that utilize the Bigfoot name or likeness, cementing the cryptid’s iconic status in the Pacific Northwest. 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 very happy,” Gimlin said. “I think it means a lot to Washington state.”
This report was produced by the Olympia bureau of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.