One aspect of the North American bigfoot I have always had a hard time reconciling is the lack of conclusive evidence versus the first nations stories of the creature. Many people will argue that there is abundant evidence for bigfoot, but the sheer amount of people looking for him (researchers, scientists, entire tv shows) really should have produced a clear picture, video, or DNA sample by now. There is no cryptid as thoroughly searched for as bigfoot. This has led me to believe it likely does not exist in North America. But what about the abundance of stories, legends, and artwork from first nations people?
I have endeavored to never dismiss a cryptid if it is well documented by local people. And bigfoot surely is. First nations people across North America have stories and beliefs in a “hairy man” or “wild man” or some other form of large bipedal animal covered in hair that lives in the forest. The word Sasquatch itself comes from a first nations language. The plethora of legends and stories about bears makes it hard to believe that it could be a case of misidentifying a bear, so what else could be responsible for this diversity of bigfoot legends? What other huge, hairy, biped could the stories be about?
Today the answer tends to be that there is no other creature these legends could be referring to. But when the legends were first told, that was not the case. Megatherium and Eremotherium were two genus of giant ground sloth that once occupied the Americas. These beasts occurred from South America as far north as New Jersey and weighed as much as 6,000 pounds and stood as tall as 12 feet on their hind legs. Their skeletons show us they were not only capable of moving bipedally but might have done so quite often.
The giant ground sloth overlapped significantly with human occupation of the Americas. Humans were well established in North America a minimum of 15,000 years ago, but some estimates could push it back to as early as 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. The giant ground sloths roamed the forests and plains at least until 10,000 years ago. Some estimates say it may not have gone completely extinct until 4,000 years ago! There was plenty of time for people to come into extensive contact with giant ground sloths and for them to become deeply entrenched into the rich oral history of first nations peoples. Those stories could have been passed down for thousands of years and today may be told as stories of the “hairy man” the “wild man” and the “sasquatch.”