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Finding Bigfoot? 'Sasquatch' Exhibit Spotted in Auburn

Explore the mystery of humanoid beings in the woods from Native American tales

Published on: July 31, 2018

Sasquatch exhibit Stick Indian scene at White River Valley Museum
White River Valley Museum

Everyone has heard of Bigfoot, right? But did you know that Bigfoot isn't the only humanoid creature rumored to walk in the woods?

Bring your budding cryptozoologist — or any curious kid who loves a good mystery — to see the new Sasquatch exhibit at Auburn's White River Valley Museum.

The exhibit, "Sasquatch: Ancient Native Perspectives on the Mysterious Beings of the Woods," features huge murals of four different versions of enigmatic humanoid beings. The depictions are based on tales from Native American elders as told to anthropologists. Once you check out the creatures, you’ll find lots of other interactive fun to be had around the rest of the museum.

Finding Sasquatch

The exhibit is in a small space, but is packed with interesting stories. Two of the walls feature floor-to-ceiling paintings of the four highlighted beings: Dzoonokwa, Stick Indian, Slapu and, of course, Sasquatch. Elements in 3D, such as small trees and other objects from the stories, add depth to the scenes.

Dzoonokwa mask by Bill Holm at Sasquatch exhibit White River Valley Museum
Dzoonokwa mask by Bill Holm. Courtesy WRVM

A handheld audio device allows you to listen to a narrative about each creature: Just punch in a number on the exhibit, then hold the device to your ear like a phone. Each legend is told by a local Native storyteller. You can also read the stories, if you prefer; paper versions are available on the benches near each scene.

I really enjoyed the stories relayed through the audio device. I worried at first that it would be difficult to hear as other visitors were milling around in the small space, each one listening to a different tale, but I couldn’t hear the sound from other devices and the sound on mine was very clear.

Benches face each of the scenes so you can sit down and look at the exhibit as you hear the story. The atmosphere was inviting. While sitting and listening to a legend, looking at the murals, I was drawn into each story.

One warning for parents: Some of the legends say that the creatures catch or kidnap children to eat them. Some younger children could be scared by this, although it's a tiny part of the story.

Once you’ve listened to the legends, there are other fun facts displayed on the walls, such as a map showing different reported sightings of Sasquatch along our coast. Contemporary works by Native American artists on display portray other versions of humanoid creatures as well.

Hands-on museum exhibits

Once you’ve toured the new exhibit, be sure to check out the rest of the museum. There are plenty of spots where kids can engage in interactive and hands-on fun. Walk through a display of a cabin, make supper in a child-sized cook tent and play on a train car.

The Native American exhibit showcases a full-sized canoe and miniature longhouse. Kids can test their powers of smell by trying to recognize scents such as pine and wood smoke by sniffing various canisters. Next to the caboose display, find another play tent in which kids can play with toy train sets and “repair” them.

This is a small museum and my family typically goes through in about an hour. But if you have a kiddo who loves trains, be prepared to stay a bit longer. My son can't seem to get enough of playing in the caboose.

During summer, the Mary Olson Farm, located about 10 minutes from the museum, is open weekends and well worth a visit. The museum operates the farm in partnership with the city of Auburn. The farm is a fully-restored subsistence farm along the Green River and considered to be King County's best-preserved family farm from the late 1800s. Explore the restored farm building, meet the donkeys and bring along a picnic.

If you go...

Find it: The White River Valley Museum is located at 918 H Street S.E., Auburn, next to the Auburn Library and popular Les Gove Park, which has a terrific accessible playground and seasonal spray park (open through Labor Day.)

Hours: The museum is open Wednesday–Sunday, noon–4 p.m., plus every first Thursday, 6–8 p.m. (The farm is open Saturday–Sunday, noon–5 p.m., through Aug. 26.)

Exhibit: The temporary exhibit, "Sasquatch: Ancient Native Perspectives on the Mysterious Beings of the Woods," is on display through Dec. 16, 2018.

Cost: Admission to the museum is $5 for adults; $2 for children and seniors. Every first Thursday and third Sunday of the month, admission is free. (Farm admission is free though a suggested donation of $5 per adult and $2 per child is greatly appreciated.)

Special events:

The museum hosts ongoing special events, including the following upcoming family programs:

  • Thursday, Aug. 2, 7 p.m.: All welcome for Native storytelling with Roger Fernandes, of the Lower Elwha Band of the S'Klallam. Fernandes incorporates song, dance and tales from around the world in a captivating program. Event is free but come early to secure a spot as space is limited.
  • Sunday, Aug. 12, 2 p.m.: Join Gary Stroutsos at Mary Olson Farm for Native flute songs. Free program; all welcome.
  • Museum Overnights: The museum offers fun and affordable overnight programs for kids ages 7–12. The next one takes place Nov. 16–17 (7 p.m.–8 a.m.) with the theme "Wizarding School." Preregister online.

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