In the summer of 2013, Native Watchman Tom Sewid described to us some of the signs of the sasquatch, or what he liked to call the Bukwus. For instance, if you come to a beach and find a pile of shells on a log or on rocks that look like they have been crushed, with some meat still inside, that is a sign that the sasquatch have been harvesting for shellfish at low tide during the night. They leave the piles of shells — horseshells, butterclams, and cockles — to tell humans that this is their beach. Simply finding one broken shell is inconclusive, since it could have been dropped by a raven. But if you arrive on a beach in your kayak and find a pile of shells, he advises you to get back in your kayak and leave. At a young age, Tom was taught to respect those signs while out hunting.
The term Bukwus is the Kwak’wala term for the male sasquatch. The female sasquatch is known by the term D’sonoqua. Large, hairy, bipedal anthropoid beings were described in the ancient legends of the indigenous people of British Columbia long before "Bigfoot" became a phenomenon in popular culture. The Bukwus and D’sonoqua appear in carvings and dance as well as folklore.
The white crushed-shell beach where we landed on a peninsula on the west side of Turnour Island used to be a village site. It’s forested now, seemingly devoid of any signs of past human habitation. But Tom recognizes mounds indicating that three big houses used to stand here, oriented with their backs to the southeast storms and winter outflow winds. When people were organized within a political structure of a serfdom, this was probably where commoners lived. When smallpox, influenza, and tuberculosis swept across the lands int he late 1700 through the early 1800s, the indigenous population was depleted by 95%. Small villages like this could no longer be sustained, and the serfdom collapsed. People moved into the major village centers. The major villages were then later abandoned after the Indian Reserves were established. The age of the surrounding cedars correlates with the time epidemics would have ravaged the area.
In a clearing among the cedars Tom told us about his own encounter with the Bukwus. In 1994 while on a seine boat anchored off of Village Island in the Broughton Archipelago, Tom and three other fishermen sighted a male and female sasquatch on shore. His sighting is documented in John Bindernagel's book, North America's Great Ape: the Sasquatch.