In the cold winter of 1811, a man named David Thompson crossed the Rocky Mountains, specifically in the vicinity of Jasper, Alberta. As he did so, Thompson came across - in the snow - a line of very strange footprints. They were curious indeed, to the extent that Thompson could only rationalize them in terms of a "grizzled bear." His Native American contacts, however, believed the tracks to have been made by nothing less than a still-living mammoth! A careful study of Thompson's very own words strongly suggest that the culprit may have been a fully-grown Bigfoot. And, of course, if that was the case, then the affair was a deeply significant one, since it demonstrates that discoveries of large, unidentified, prints in the United States are not exclusive to relatively recent years or decades.
On the Mammoth theory, Thompson noted: "I questioned several Indians, none could positively say they have seen him, but their belief I found firm and not to be shaken. I remarked to them, that such an enormous heavy animal must leave indelible marks of his feet, and his feeding. This they all acknowledged, and that they had never seen any marks of him, and therefore could show me none. All I could say did not shake their belief in his existence."
Just a couple of days later...
"Continuing our journey in the afternoon we came on the track of a large animal, the snow about six inches deep on the ice; I measured it; four large toes each of four inches in length to each a short claw; the ball of the foot sunk three inches lower than the toes, the hinder part of the foot did not mark well, the length fourteen inches, by eight inches in breadth, walking from north to south, and having passed about six hours. We were in no humor to follow him; the men and Indians would have it to be a young Mammoth and I held it to be the track of a large old grizzled bear; yet the shortness of the nails, the ball of the foot, and its great size was not that of a bear, otherwise that of a very large, old bear, his claws worn away; this the Indians would not allow."
It’s notable that this is not the only occasion in the 19th century that a traveler thought to chronicle such a strange experience in his journal. In March 1847, an artist named Paul Kane did that, too. Kane stated: "When we arrived at the mouth of the Kattlepoutal River, twenty-six miles from Vancouver, Washington, I stopped to make a sketch of the volcano, Mt. St. Helens, distant, I suppose, about thirty or forty miles. This mountain has never been visited by either whites or Indians; the latter assert that it is inhabited by a race of beings of a different species, who are cannibals, and whom they hold in great dread. These superstitions are taken from the statement of a man who, they say, went into the mountain with another, and escaped the fate of his companion, who was eaten by the 'skoocooms,' or 'evil genii.' I offered a considerable bribe to any Indian who would accompany me in its exploration but could not find one hardy enough to venture there."
Although Kane did not allude to the "race of beings" as being huge, hairy apes, it’s important to note that Mount St. Helens has a long and fascinating history of Bigfoot encounters. In that sense, at least, a tentative argument can be made that the mountain-dwelling cannibals that the Native Americans so greatly feared amounted to a colony of Bigfoot. Perhaps.