Wooly Mammoth went extinct about 1700 BC

Wooly Mammoth went extinct about 1700 BC

Using Radio Carbon Dating (which is interesting in itself) scientists have determined that the last Wooly Mammoths died about 1700 B.C.

They were a dwarfed species that lived on Wrangel Island which is in the Artic Sea in North Eastern Russia. Dwarfism is fairly typical for animals that get trapped on islands, so their size is nothing unexpected and does not make them a separate species. The island is now home to the largest population of Polar Bears in the world, and Arctic Wolves have started living there.

It’s generally thought that the bulk of the species died off 10,000 years ago during the Pleistocene era. The exact cause is unknown, but ironically over hunting by humans tends to be the number one theory, although warming after the last Ice Age certainly played a huge part.

What is really interesting is the range of these animals. Remains have been found in Siberia (given), Alaska (on St. Paul Island where they lived up until 3,750 BC), Spain and as far south in North America as present day Kentucky, where William Clark, of Lewis and Clark,collected some fossils in 1806.

But despite the known extinction dates, rumors of live Woolly Mammoths have persisted up until fairly recent times. There are several stories of lone hunters in Siberia, or Native American tribes in the far North having seen such animals in recent memory. Based on the number of intact carcasses found over the years, 34 in 1929 and now doubled since then, plus rumors of soft tissue being used as an emergency food source by small villages in the winter time, it’s very possible that the 1700 BC date is still incorrect.

As the DNA sequence for a Mammoth is the most complete of any extinct animal, it’s generally thought that it’ll be a trivial task to use that information to clone one. Due to it’s large size and the (relatively) easier task of getting intact DNA samples from Mammoth corpses, it’s believed that if some intact sperm cells can be recovered, an Indian elephant can be impregnated, bringing the Mammoth back to life.

The Tale of Chief Bigfoot

The Tale of Chief Bigfoot

In American history there are two Chief Bigfoots, Chief Big Foot of the Lakodas who was killed by the US Calvary on December 29, 1890, and Chief Bigfoot who led raids against settlers in the Eastern Oregon, Northern Nevada and South Eastern Idaho area during the 1860s.

The western Chief Bigfoot was the leader of the remains of the Paiute, Bannock and Shoshone Indians tribes. This combined tribe of Indians was rogue, having resisted resettlement to reservations. He was known by several names, Nam-Puh, We-ah-we-ha, and Oulux. The town of Nampa Idaho was named after him, Nam-Puh meaning “Big Foot” in the Bannock Language. As you’ll see below, the full extent of Chief Bigfoot and his tribe’s activities is unknown, but they were a real worry to settlers in the area during the Snake Wars. He and his tribe would steal horses, set remote farms on fire, kill sheep, etc.

He was a tall man, described by Idaho pioneer John Hailey in “History of Idaho” as “six foot eight inches tall, and weighing two hundred and eighty pounds.” His foot print in moccasins was seventeen and a half inches long by six inches wide. The size of his foot led many local boys to make “Chief Bigfoot” tracks and then play practical jokes with the Chief to blame.

His story has been stretched quite a bit, not only over the years, but during his own lifetime. It doesn’t help that one of the tertiary sources tries to create a link between Chief Bigfoot and Sasquatch. The author of that book apparently believes that all Bigfoot sightings in the area are actually actually a taller, hairier, and miraculously 180 year old, Chief Bigfoot. The core of his story weaves between these two facts, attempting to blend them together.

Another stretching of the truth was in November 1878. Author William T. Anderson published an account in the “Idaho Statesman,” of Chief Bigfoot’s demise. This story adds a few “facts” that are short on proof of any sort. Of course the original article was published as a serial so truth was probably stretched even more. Like many Western Stories of the day, just enough facts and truth were applied to give the story enough elements of truth to be believable. Unfortunately this story was taken as fact for some time to the point that Pioneer Descendants had a brass plaque erected on the Snake River near Bigfoot Canyon repeating the tale below.

The story, as outlined in the Idaho Statesman, starts with real life figure John Wheeler, a known highwayman and gunman who lived near Silver City, Idaho. Wheeler had successfully held up a stage coach in Oregon, and was killed a few years later while trying to do so again in Arizona.

According to Anderson; “… after lying in wait for three days, Wheeler trapped Bigfoot, challenged him, and the battle was on. The duel took place in what became known as Bigfoot Canyon, a few miles south of Snake River, on the stage route to Silver City. When the shooting ended and the gunsmoke cleared, Bigfoot lay prostrate in the dust, twelve bullets from a Henry rifle in his body. Though both his legs and one of his arms were broken, he still was considered so dangerous that when he asked for a drink of water, Wheeler replied:

‘Hold on till I break the other arm, old rooster; then I’ll give you a drink.’

‘Well, do it quick,” Bigfoot said, ‘and give me a drink and let me die.”

Anderson states that Wheeler did both, and then gave the Chief a swig of whiskey and ammonia “in case of snakebite” at his request. “The Indian drank it, every drop, and then fell back apparently dead. After a few minutes he revived, and said that he was better.”

The Chief then told Wheeler his life story. Note that at this point he had four broken limbs and twelve bullet holes from a .44 in his body. Anyways, he had been born to a half Cherokee half Negro woman, and a white man named Archer Wilkinson. Wilkinson had been hanged for murder but his mother was a good, religious woman. His actual name was Starr Wilkinson, he was six foot eight and a half, 300 pounds and had been called “Bigfoot” as long as he could remember.

He drove a wagon west as part of a emigrant train in 1856 in return for room and board. He fell in love with a young lady on the train, who returned his interest until an artist from New York City joined the train. Suspecting the artist had bad mouthed him, an argument started while the two men were rounding up the stock one morning near Goose Creek Mountains. The artist admitted to having made derogatory references to Wilkinson’s parentage to the young lady.

“This made me mad, and I told him if he called me that again I would kill him. So he drew his gun on me and repeated it. I was unarmed, but started at him. He shot me in the side but did not hurt me much, so I grabbed him and threw him down, and choked him to death, then threw him into Snake River, took his gun, pistol and knife and ran off into the hills.”

Anderson writes that Joe Lewis, of the Whitman Massacre, was his chief aide. As vengeance, they planned and carried out the Ward Massacre (which happened in 1854 – two years before Wilkinson came over on the wagon train,) the Otter Massacre in 1860, and the young lady he had once been interested in along with countless other killings.

Wilkinson found that Wheeler was also part Cherokee and asked him two favors – that none be told of his death and that his body was to be buried where it could never be found. Wheeler agreed, and Chief Bigfoot died content.

General George S. Crook finally ended what became known as the Snake Indian Wars in 1868. He wrote in his memoirs that he had sighted an Indian named Bigfoot who appeared to be a Paiute. He stood over six feet tall, had a moccasin track of fourteen and half inches long, and could run down jackrabbits.

Native Americans in Portland Oregon

The Chinook tribe occupied the area along the Columbia River from it’s mouth all the way up to The Dallas area. They lived along the Willamette, Clackamas and Lewis Rivers. Their language is split into two and possibly even three distinct languages. Lower Chinook which is spoken around the mouth of the Columbia is split into two dialects. Both dialects are unintelligible to any other Chinook dialects.

Native Americans in Portland Oregon

If we travel east along the Columbia River we find Kalama which is where the Kathlamet dialect was spoken. Some scholars believe to be a distinct language in itself and have classified it as Middle Chinook.

Of the Lower Chinook dialects, Multnomah was spoken around the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers which included present day Sauvie Island, downtown Portland, the South Shore of the Columbia River between the Willamette and Government Island (where present day I-205 crosses the Columbia River), and all the way west to the Lewis River.

The last known dialect is Kiksht which was spoken south on the Willamette River to Willamette Falls at Oregon City, along the Clackamas River, and spoken around Cascades and all the way east to The Dallas. It’s possible that this dialect was also spoken along the Sandy River, but there is little information about the Chinook Tribe living full time in that area. It is possible that areas along the Sandy River were simply less habitable due to it’s original name given by Lewis and Clark – Quick Sand River. What is known for sure is that Indian trails crossed through the area connecting the Willamette Falls area to The Dallas area. Two of these trails were later used by white settlers and became known as Lolo Pass and Barlow Road. At the very least the Sandy River was used for seasonal gatherings of Huckleberry which would have necessitated temporary camps.


While it’s most likely the Chinooks had permanent villages, large portions of the tribes seasonally traveled throughout their range to follow food sources. While not remarked upon directly, Lewis and Clark had two different population estimates for tribes near their winter quarters. Once in winter and again in the spring. Dissenting opinions say that Lewis and Clark miscounted, or simply got more familiar with the natives in the area and made more accurate accounts the second time. This might be true if the population numbers were not so drastic, almost always doubled in every single village counted which would lend credence to the more nomadic natures of the Indians.

The Upper and Lower Chinooks had slighly different diets. The Lower Chinooks ate a lot more marine life such as whale, clams, and other seafoods due to their locations near the mouth of the Columbia River. Both ate salmon, sturgeon, deer, elk, along with wapato, camas, hazelnuts and acorns. Archaeological evidence suggests that they also ate harbor seal, dog, bobcat, racoon, turtles, varieties of fresh water fish and other small animals and of course blackberries and huckleberries.

While the Lower Chinooks were most likely visited by the Spanish as early at 1535, and would have seen Robert Gray’s Columbia Rivera enter the river in May 1792, it was not until British Royal Navy Lieutenant William Broughton sailed up the Columbia River and named Vancouver Point on October 30, 1792 that the Upper Chinook were first visited by white men. Even then it seems they were for the most part ignored, even though Chinook Canoes accompanied the Lieutenant up the river.

Small pox epidemics ravaged the Chinook by the time Lewis and Clark made their own observations. The first epidemic is reported to have happened in the 1770’s and the second in 1801. This makes it unclear as to who or where the epidemics came from. It’s possible that it was passed among the different nations, British ships sailing and trading along the coast, or French Canadian Trappers who passed it on. What was clear even to Lewis and Clark is that the native population had been drastically reduced by the time they visited.

Between Lewis and Clark’s visit, and the arrival of the Hudson Bay Company who built Fort Vancouver across the river in 1824-1825 there is little evidence of European visits to the inland tribes around the area of Portland. There had to have been visits though, Fort George (formerly Fort Astoria,) had been founded in May 1811. Located as it was at the head waters of the Columbia River, and thus in the Chinook Territory, the fur trappers and Natives traded pelts and probably even married.

The next few years probably saw drastically increased trade with the local Chinooks, especially those of the Multnomah speaking villages. By 1829 retired French Canadian trappers were definitely traveling through the area to settle further up the Willamette River at what is now called Champoeg.

1843 saw the initial inklings of the founding of Portland. William Overton and Asa Lovejoy filed a claim over an area known to locals at the time as “The Clearing.” The Clearing had been a Chinook village at one time, and there was even corn already growing. The village and tribes name are unknown to us now, but this location is right about where Burnside and 1st Street/Naito Parkway are now.

Between 1851 and 1856 settlers and Indian Agents managed to get the Chinook to (in most cases unwillingly) move to reservations. Even afterwards they were still blamed for killings and animosity towards settlers, even though it many cases it might have been the settlers fault. Today the remains of the Chinook Tribes are integrated into the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.

Portland : Cultural resources protection plan for Columbia South Shore
Lewis and Clark Journals
The Chinook Indians: Traders of the Lower Columbia River (Civilization of the American Indian Series)
Siletz Indian History