The story of Ogopogo begins with Native legends. I believe that all legends are partially based on fact. Native culture and history is passed on from generation to generation through storytelling. It is a way to ensure the history of its people will not be lost . It is also common for stories to be created to try and explain the existence of unknown or feared creatures. This may be the case with Ogopogo.
The legend of Ogopogo starts with a Demon possessed Native Man named Kel-oni-won who murdered a well known and respected Elder named " Old Kan-he-kan " with a war club. As a punishment for his crime the Creator changed Kel-oni-won into a Lake Serpent, a Creature who would forever be imprisoned at the scene of his crime to suffer eternal remorse. He was left in the custody of a beautiful Lake Goddess. Kel-oni-won was from that day on known as N'ha-a-itk, the remorseful one who must live in the lake in the company of other animals. It is said that the only animal who could tolerate his company was the Rattlesnake. To honor the memory of " Old Kan-he-kan " his people named the Lake " Okanagan."
N'ha-a-itk which translates to " Water Demon " or " Lake Monster " would demand a toll from travellers for a safe passage through the waters it called home. Its home was said to be the waters near Squally Point near Rattlesnake Island (also known as Monster Island). The fee for safe passage was a live sacrifice. Whenever the Natives who lived around the lake would venture out on the water they would sacrifice a small animal to appease the Monster. They would drop the animal into the water, it would drown and sink to the depths of the lake. This would ensure a protected journey. It was told that the shore of Rattlesnake Island was littered with the gory remnants of the travellers who did not make a sacrifice. N'ha-a-itk would use its mighty tail to whip up the lakes water into a fierce storm that would drown its victims. The white settlers also followed the Natives warnings. Yet the Whiteman also lapsed at times and had to be reminded of the Monsters wrath.
Above : Rattlesnake Island
The following are a few examples of what would happen if N'ha-a-itk was not given the proper respect.
In 1854 a Settler named John MacDougall is said to have ignored the warnings of the Local Natives. While swimming his team of horses across the lake, N'ha-a-itk pulled the team down with tremendous force. MacDougall was terrified, but even more so when he realized that his canoe, which was tied to the horses was being pulled down as well. He grabbed his knife and cut the poor animals loose, narrowly escaping with his life.
Timbasket was a Chief of a visiting tribe. He was a cynic and declared his disbelief in the existence of N'ha-a-itk. He was told that the West bank Natives intended to sacrifice a live dog to the Monster as they passed Squally Point. Timbasket was unimpressed. He knew far to much of the world to concern himself with such a foolish custom. While crossing the lake Timbasket defiantly chose to travel close to the shore near Squally Point. Suddenly N'ha-a-itk arose from the water and whipped the surface with his powerful tail. Timbasket and his family were sucked under by the great swirl of angry water, never to be seen again.
Evidence of the Natives belief in Ogopogo can be found around the lake. Ancient pictographs or rock art depict the great " Lake Demon. " There are at least three crude drawings on stone around the shore of the lake. They are thought to be from around 1700 B.C. and are now in a extremely poor state of preservation.
left : example of the pictographs found around lake Okanagan.
There are hundreds of eyewitness reports, with major consistencies in the descriptions. The skin is described as a dark green to green-black or brown. Some have said it to be blue-black or even golden brown. I believe the slight variations in the description of color could be attributed to light reflecting on the water, water temperature or maybe even seasonal change. Most often the skin has been described as smooth with no scales. Most of the back is smooth but a portion is ragged-edged or serrated. Sparse hair or hair like bristles are reported around the head. In a few cases a mane has been observed at the back of the neck. This giant snake like creature is estimated to be 1-2 feet in diameter and 20-70 feet long, with the head of a horse or goat.
In 1914 a group of Nicola Valley and West bank Natives discovered the decomposing body of an unidentified creature across from Rattlesnake Island. The body was 5-6 feet long and approximately 400 pounds. Its skin was blue-grey, it had a long tail and flippers. it was thought to be a baby Ogopogo.
Foot prints have also been found around the lake, which have been described as Dinosaur like with three toes. Other tracks found were said to be cup like or a pad foot with eight toes.
It is still not clear as to what species Ogopogo belongs to. Some believe that the great Lake Monster is a Plesiosaurus or a primitive whale like a Basilosaurus Cetoides. Until hard evidence is found that teaches us the true identity of this ancient animal, we will have to rely on theory and speculation. I believe one day the truth will be found, but until then the mystery around Ogopogo will continue to keep all of us exploring the unexplained.
Left : Plesiosaurus Right : Basilosaurus Cetoides
There are many other Canadian Lake Monsters. Like Ogopogo there have been sightings for many years. It leads me to believe that these creatures do exist. How could the hundreds of people who have seen these animals across the country all be wrong. Is it not possible that these lakes hold secrets yet to be told?
The following is a list of some of the other Canadian Lake Monsters:
The Lake Erie Monster
Turtle Lake Monster - Saskatchewan
Memphre Quebecs - Lake Memphramagos
Caddy - Coast of British Columbia
Sicopogo - British Columbia
Kraken - Newfoundland
Utopia Monster - New Brunswick
The Serpent of Saddle Lake - Alberta
Manipogog - Manitoba
Igopogo - Ontario