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It has been more than 50 years since the legend of Bigfoot first captured the hearts and imaginations of the American public. It has been more than 50 years of sightings, investigations and debunking. But are we any closer to having proof that can pass scientific muster that this tall, hairy being with gigantic feet exists? No one has the answer to that question, yet some Bigfoot experts have figured out that the best place to get the evidence is in Indian country.

It makes sense. Long before this elusive creature became part of popular American folklore—we’re talking hundreds, if not thousands, of years—his presence had been accepted by North American tribes. Most had a name for him. The Lakota called him “Chiye-tanka,” the Chippewa, “Djeneta” and the Seminole, “Ssti capcaki.” Then, of course, there is “Sasquatch,” derived from the Salish in the Pacific Northwest. Depending on the tribe, he was regarded as a physical being, as real as any human, or a spirit that often manifested on Earth as a friend, never a foe, to mankind.

David Paulides, executive director of North America Bigfoot Search in Los Gatos, Calif., and author of the book Tribal Bigfoot, says Bigfoot has a firm place in many tribal cultures as “Keeper of the Forest” or “Keeper of the Earth.” “It’s someone that they’ve always revered, respected, admired and at times even traded with,” he says.

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