The Stonish Giant – Ancient Legend or Modern Bigfoot?

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The Stonish Giants were believed by the Iroquois to be an ancient group of gigantic men, who would roll themselves in mud, which became stone so strong their arrows would simply bounce off.

The Stonish Giants attacked the original Six Nations of the Northeastern America’s, but after a brutal war were forced back into the wilderness. The oral legend was recorded and recounted by a David Cusick along with the image above drawn by him in the early 1800’s.

The legend continues as sightings in the area continue to be recorded, and were made popular by the television shown “Monster Hunters.”

First let’s talk about the ancient legend of the Stonish Giant, then we’ll talk about it’s role in modern day and reality television.  

The Legend Of The Stonish Giant

In his book David Cusick’s Sketches Of Ancient History of the Six Nations published in 1828, David described the legend of the Stonish Giant as told by the Iroquois Tribe. This is one of the earliest, if not the very earliest, accounts of Native American history written in English. He first published the account in a 28 page pamphlet in 1827.

First lets talk about who the Iroquois were, and then we’ll talk about their legend of the Stonish Giant.

Who Were The Iroquois?
map of the six nations
Map of the Six Nations

The Iroquois, or sometimes called the Haudenosaunee were one of the most powerful Native American tribal people in the Northeast Americas. During colonial times the French referred to them as the “Iroquois League.” Later they were called the “Iroquois Confederacy” by the French, and the English referred to them as the “Five Nations” and later as the “Six Nations” (hence the title of the book) made up of the Oneida, Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and the Tuscarora tribes.

When a census was last taken in 2010, there were approximately  45,000 Six Nations people living in Canada, and close to 80,000 in the United states.

Story Of The Stonish Giant As Told By David Cusick

The following is from William Beauchamp’s work, Iroquois Folk Lore Gathered from the Six Nations of New York, that he wrote in 1965, and the quoted text is directly from David Cusick’s work.

“”I have alluded to the Ot-ne-yar-hed or Stonish Giants, who overran the country, fought a great battle, and held the people in subjection for a long time.The Stonish Giants were so ravenous that they devoured the people of almost every town in the country. At the Mississippi they had separated from all others and gone to the northwest.”The family was was left to seek its habitation, and the rules of humanity were forgotten, and afterwards eat raw flesh of the animals. At length they practiced rolling themselves on the sand, by this means their bodies were covered with hard skin; these people became giants and were dreadful invaders of the country.

So said David Cusick. According to him the Holder of the Heavens led them into a deep ravine near Onondaga, and rolled great stones on them in the night. But one escaped, and since then “the Stonish Giants left the country and seeks an asylum in the regions of the north.

The Onondagas have a local but different story. They say that a Stone Giant lived near Cardiff, a little south of their reservation, which is by no means their early home. He was once like other men, but was a great eater, becoming a cannibal, and increased in size. His skin became hard and changed into scales, which alone would turn an arrow. Every day he came through the valley, caught and devouted an Onondaga, a fearful toll. The people were dismayed but formed a plan. They made a road in the marsh witha covered pitfall, decoyed the giant through the path and down he went and was killed.Of course when the Cardiff Giant was “found” it did not astonish the Onondagas that he was of stone.

The Onondagas have also a story of a Stone Giant’s race with a man near Jamesville. He ran the man into the hollow at Green Pond, west of that village, where the rocks rise 200 feet above the water on three sides. On the south side the precipice can be ascended by a natural stairway at one spot, and the man was far enough ahead to reach the top before the other. He lay down and looked from the rocks to see what the other would do. The latter came and looked around. Not seeing the man he took out of his pouch what seemed a finger, but was really a pointer of bone. By means of this he could find any object he wished, and so it was always useful in hunting. As he climbed the rocks the man reached down and took away the pointer before the other saw him. The giant begged him to restore it. If he would do this he was promised good luck and long life for himself and friends. Though he begged so piteously the man ran home with it to show his friends, leaving him there helpless, unable to find his way. His friends interceded, telling him to accept the giant’s good offer and not incur his enmity. So they went back adn found him still at the lake. He recieved his pointer, promising to eat men no more, and good luck followed the man. This is one of the oldest Stone Giant stories, closely resembling one told by David Cusick.”

The Iroquois Fighting Giants

Iroquois Fighting GiantsIn his book History of Clarion County PA Author A.J. Davis recounts a tribe that entered into an alliance with the Iroquois to fight people of gigantic stature, which might possibly be where their legend could have originated, or been strengthened by. He writes:

“The aboriginal tribe who dwelt on the shores of the Allegheny were the Allegwi, a people of gigantic stature who inhabited fortified towns. The LenniLenape, or Delawares, in navigating from the West sought a residence with them, but this was refused; the Allegwi only granting them leave to cross the river and proceed eastward. While they were doing this the Allegwi, alarmed at their numbers and strength, fell on those who had reached the eastern bank and destroyed many of them. Eager for revenge the Lenni Lenape entered into an alliance with the Mengwe, or Iroquois, a nation lying south of Lakes Erie and Ontario, and engaged in a war with the Allegwi, which, after a desperate struggle of many years, ended in the defeat of the latter, who retired down the Ohio and Mississippi, never to return.”

Stonish Giant On The Show “Monster Hunters”

In the TV show “Monster Hunters” which airs on Destination America, six hunters that call themselves the Appalachian Investigators of Mysterious Sightings (AIMS) investigate testimonies and evidence of unidentified monsters in the Appalachian Mountains.

In the first episode of the 4th season, the men set out to investigate recent sightings of the ancient Stonish Giants. They first interview a man in the upstate New York area who claims that while hunting a deer, he suddenly felt the earth literally shake beneath him. He then felt hot breath on the back of his neck as this giant creature stood behind him. The witness found tracks of the giant, and said that one foot looked like it was dragging, as if he had been injured. He, and the team, believe it may be a modern sighting of an injured Stonish Giant.

They refer to it as a “BigFoot” and set out the first night to hunt it in the exact area it was spotted. They see a footprint they believe could be from the giant, and a few broken branches, but not much more.

The next morning, talking about how the Iroquois would trap their game in snares, they men decide they are going to build a giant trap to catch the creature.

The men then hear about a neighbor of the first witness in the same area, who while hunting out of a blind, saw the stonish giant and got a shot off at him.

The AIMS team heads out to investigate in the area. Calculating the direction they believe the hunter shot, the team finds a small pool of blood they believe belonged to the giant.

The team baits the snare trap they built earlier in the area where they believe the stonish giant was shot. Based on the several accounts they received, they believe the creature to be 10 feet tall, and over 1000 pounds. They set out on a night hunt to find him and prove he exists.

On their final night hunt, they believe they see him run out from behind a group of rocks. After further investigation they find tons of blood that had been pressed up agains the rocks he was leaning against. They also find what they believe was the bullet he was shot with.

While searching for it, the team hears a gunshot. Realizing it wasn’t from their team, they set out to find out who’s shooting. They see lights from vehicles, and looking down the hill they see four men dragging a huge creature wrapped up in a tarp they believe to be the Stonish Giant they’ve been hunting.

Group of men dragging the Stonish Giant
Group of men dragging the Stonish Giant

The group of men, who the team believes have been following them for months, escape with what they believe is the stonish giant in the back of their trailer. They find a pool of blood and spent shells they believe took it down.

Frustrated that they lost out on their chance to capture a real BigFoot to a rogue team that had been following them, the team recounts their evidence.

They have several eye witnesses, they believe they saw him themselves, saw his footprints, saw his blood, and saw him being dragged away. For the team, this is enough to convince them this Stonish Giant still exists, and may be the bigfoot that people keep seeing.


The Stonish Giant began as a legend of the Iroquois people. The story of an ancient tribe of the wilderness that were twice the height of a regular man, and made of stone strong enough to deflect arrows. Over time, more sightings in the same region of been recounted and many believe these Stonish Giants could be what are now referred to as bigfoot.

Is this an ancient legend, or modern theory. I’d like to hear your opinion!

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