Chief Clamitile is the tribal leader and keeper of songs for the Wonkatila Tribe, who reside on the island of Juan de Fuca de la Brias in Washington State. His great-grandfather was one of the signers of a peace treaty between the Wonkatila Tribe and the United States on January 25, 1855. Chief Clamitile is also considered a holy medicine man and has performed countless ceremonies to honor Willatuk and ask for Willatuk's protection when his people embark on whaling missions.
Chief Clamitile does not understand why the whites want to capture and study Willatuk.
"How do you capture the wind?" he asks. "Willatuk is a god, a presence of the great creator, and should not be bothered. Willatuk should be left in peace."
Chief Clamitile proclaims that the tribe’s relationship with Willatuk goes back many generations.
“I have heard the stories told for many years and now I am the keeper of these stories and of the songs that honor Willatuk. Willatuk has protected our people for hundreds of years. When we go out on the ocean to hunt the whale, he has protected us and guided us home when we have become lost in the fog. Willatuk has protected the salmon when they have come upstream to breed, until the coming of the white man, who has polluted the land and water.”
“Many of our families have a totem with Willatuk on it. The totem of a family tells the history of that family, and many of them have seen Willatuk or have been cured of some ailment by Willatuk.”
Chief Clamitile claims that Willatuk has been curing his people of disease and injuries for hundreds of years.
“When the white man brought us smallpox, tuberculosis, whooping cough, and the gray death we turned to Willatuk to heal our ills. For many years we would take the sick ones down to the north shore of Lake Washington and lay them on blankets next to the water. Sometime during the night Willatuk would arise from the waters and breathe upon them. We called it "Blowing out." After Willatuk had "Blown Out" upon them, they would be cured. The next day there would be much celebration in the village.”
Chief Clamitile also recalls learning about the Great Blizzard of 1736, when a huge ice storm swept across the Northwest. Lake Washington froze over and earned the Wonkatilla name Glaako Owanato or Ghost Ocean.
"Our people were starving," he said. "Hungry beast wolves came down from the mountains to prey upon my people. My people were so weak with illness and hunger...the beast wolves attacked and carried many of the women and children up into the mountains, where they were devoured while alive."
Chief Clamitile credits Willatuk with saving his people during the deadly blizzard of 1736.
"There was an earthquake then...a great earthquake that shook the mountains so hard some of them exploded and the air was filled with fire and dirt for months. Willatuk rose up out of the ice of Ghost Ocean like the god he is. Legend has it the beast wolves fled back up into the mountains as the rupturing spat out flame into the sky. Willatuk then "Blew Out" upon the people as they gathered down before him so they would not freeze. For several days he protected my people and even brought them food. We knew then that he was a god and we named him God of Ocean."
The aging Indian chief believes Willatuk must be protected at all costs and the Wonkatila Tribe dances a new dance called the Ocean Dance, where they pray for the safety and protection of Willatuk.
"Willatuk is as holy as nature. Why does the white man not understand that nature is also a part of the creator? The land and the water must remain pure, as it was in the old days. Our hope for the future lies in Willatuk. All the world's children must be protected from the men who would tear up our mother, the earth, for money. We pray that Willatuk will rise again and save us from the destruction of our land.”
Born in Mexico City, Mexico, Dr. De La Reyo spent his youth studying insects in the tropical rain forests of Brazil. He received his B.A. in biology from the University of Belem, his M.A. in Necrotic Pathology from Campo Grande University, and his Ph.D. in Paleontology from the University of Cruzeiro do Sol in Brazil. Dr. De La Reyo's primary professional interest has been in the study of lake monsters and sea serpents.
Dr. De la Reyo has traveled extensively to study sea serpents and lake monsters, and spent 1981-84 living in Scotland while tracking the Loch Ness Monster. In 1985 he became a founding member of the World Organization of Federated Crypto-Zoologists at the National Museum of the McCarton Institution in Whangarei, New Zealand. Professor De La Reyo has argued that Willatuk is the most unusual sea serpent in the world.
"Willatuk is a completely unique creature," Professor De La Reyo said at a press conference in Moscow in 2002. "It is unlike any other lake monster or sea serpent in the world, because it is equally at home in both fresh and salt water." Like members of the Wonkatilla tribe, Dr. De La Reyo believes Willatuk was brought to life in a great earthquake along the Cascadian subduction zone in 1702 A.D. The Cascadian subduction zone consists of a mid-ocean ridge called the Juan de Fuca Fault which extends 300 miles north and south off the coast of Washington State. Numerous Willatuk sightings have been recorded in these waters.
Professor De La Reyo has his own research vessel, dubbed the Willafind. It is docked in Fisherman's Terminal in Seattle, Washington. Recently, Professor De La Reyo has spent time with northwest Native American tribes who support their research missions and believe Willatuk is a living form of God. The literal translation of Willatuk is "God of Ocean."
"People must understand this creature represents everything that Mother Nature is trying to teach us," De La Reyo said. " We have polluted the waterways, our land, and we are overpopulating. Willatuk is a living metaphor, teaching us how to live in harmony with nature. Willatuk must be protected and respected, because it shows us how we should be living our lives."
Grip David was born in Dallas, Texas, and moved all around the Southwest as a child. His father was a rodeo clown and raised him to be a bull rider from the age of 3. By the time he was 18, Grip was a United States bull-riding champion and worked the rodeo circuit from South Dakota to South Carolina. Known for his fearless riding and ready smile, Grip became a favorite with the ladies until suffering a career-ending back injury when a 2000-pound bull named Cubbycake came down on his back after throwing him.
Grip moved to Los Angeles in 1996 and made his money arm-wrestling in bars up and down the California and Mexico coast. In 1998 Grip was arrested and jailed for punching out a police officer who stopped him while he was riding a motorcycle naked. Grip served two years before moving to Seattle and taking on work as a fisherman.
“I love the freedom, man.” Grip said. “To be out in the open water in the Bering Strait? There ain’t nothing like it in the world.” He won’t comment on his arrest other than to say, “I made a bad mistake, but a man should be treated with respect even if he isn’t wearing any clothes.”
Grip claims to have seen Willatuk in Puget Sound when he was returning from a fishing trip in 2000. He says his life has completely changed since his encounter with the sea serpent.
"We were going through Shilshoe Bay outside of Ballard. It was real early in the morning and I was standing on the stern of the ship when I saw this dark shape out in the water. First I thought it was a whale or something but then his head shot out. It had a really long neck and I swear it stared right at me. I just stood there and we stared at each other for what seemed like forever. Then it just sank back into the water. Right before its head disappeared, it made a sort of sound I can't describe, like it was saying something to me."
"People don't believe me, which pisses me off. Ever since I saw Willatuk I've been set on finding him again. Something big is happening here, and I can't fully explain it, but I do know I have to find that thing again and prove to the world I've seen it."
Grip has taken to following Professor De La Reyo's work on Willatuk. He has written and spoken to them many times about becoming part of their team, but the crypto-zoologists want nothing to do with the angry young man who feels Willatuk is part of his legacy.
"They're both just selfish." Grip says. "All they care about really is themselves and all the fame and money they'll get. But I'm going to get to that thing no matter what. I'm going to get proof. And then there'll be no more doubters calling me a fool. I don't care if I have to kill Willatuk to do it. I'm going to show them all I'm the man when it comes to Willatuk."
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