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Northland searchers say Bigfoot sightings more common; skeptics say 'dream on'

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DEER RIVER -- Robert Olson said he and others have discovered plenty of large footprints in Northeastern Minnesota's forests.

Footprints of Bigfoot.

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"For every sighting we have heard about, there's probably 10 more that we don't hear about," said Olson, who will speak Monday about Northeastern Minnesota Bigfoot sightings at Lady Ocalat's Emporium in downtown Duluth, a shop that sells "eclectic and magical" items.

"One of the ideas is that these creatures are moving east away from what could be a cataclysmic disaster," Olson said.

Olson is one of a handful of Northeastern Minnesota Bigfoot researchers who say they've seen signs -- or received reports -- of Bigfoot "beings," also known as Sasquatch, across Northeastern Minnesota.

Within the last two years, there have been about 20 documented sightings across Northeastern Minnesota, Olson said.

The creatures have been described as having human-like faces with cone-shaped heads, hairy, stooped, with long arms and palms that face backward.

"And they can run," said Olson. "There's probably no animal in Minnesota that could catch them."

Many of the reported sightings have been in rural areas surrounding Leech Lake, some in the day and some at night. However, sightings have also been reported in other areas.

"We've had actual sightings near Bovey, Nett Lake and around here," said Donald Sherman, a facilities manager at Cass Lake Hospital and a member of the Leech Lake Ojibwe band. He documents Bigfoot sightings and stories in the region. "They have like a human footprint, but the prints are extremely large. We have photographs where they have made shelters, where there's animal bones lying around the shelters."

Stories of Bigfoot -- a large brown, hairy human-like being that roams forests -- go back hundreds of years in Indian beliefs, said Sherman.

In Ojibwe, the word for a Bigfoot-like creature is "bugwayjinini," meaning "wild man," said Sherman.

Indians believe that Bigfoot beings were sent by the creator long ago to guide and care for Indian people and give warnings, particularly of impending sickness, said Sherman.

"It's how we learn medicine," said Sherman. "Bigfoot teaches us medicine through our medicine man."

Sherman believes 300 to 400 -- perhaps even 500 -- Bigfoot exist in Minnesota.

"A man was hunting during the day in Nett Lake [about 20 years ago] and thought he saw a bear," said Sherman. "He put his 30.06 scope on it, but then it stood up on two legs. It looked like a human and he couldn't shoot it. Then, it just took off."

In 2005, a woman reported seeing a Bigfoot near Bena, said Sherman.

"She was driving her car and saw it walking near some railroad tracks," said Sherman. "She said it looked right at her and she started crying. She said it looked into her soul."

In 2006, a woman driving at night reported a sighting near Ball Club.

"She had come from the Deer River Casino and a small one came out, saw her and went back into the swamp," said Sherman. "Nobody knows if they're human or animal. Some Native Americans say they can change themselves and go into a different dimension and disappear right in front of you. ... There's a lot more people seeing them in the last two years, or else more people are starting to come out of the woods who are willing to talk about what they've seen."

There's never been any evidence to support believers' claims, said Keith Matson of Deer River, a retired U.S. Forest Service inventory technician who worked in Northeastern Minnesota forests for 28 years and knows Olson.

"I have had contact with a lot of professionals who work in the forest and they have never seen signs," said Matson. "Unfortunately, [Bigfoot] tracks are easy to fake. I'm not doubting their sincerity, but did they really see Bigfoot or did they see a bear or a moose, or is it a repressed dream?

Jody Hansen of Keewatin said he's been researching the existence of Bigfoot in Northeastern Minnesota since June.

This summer, Hansen said he found a footprint 17 inches long, 5 inches across the heel and 8 inches across the toes in an anthill near Carey Lake east of Hibbing. He said he's also found piles of branches and stick figures created by Bigfoot for communication. Hansen and Olsen said Bigfoot also communicate by knocking on trees.

Sherman says he and other Bigfoot researchers know there will always be doubters.

"There's always skeptics," said Sherman. "But it's like bears -- there are a lot of them around but not too many people have seen them. It's like people who don't believe in God."

The Duluth News tribune is owned by Forum Communications, which also owns DL Newspapers.

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