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In the traditional Algonquian world, the windigo is the spirit of selfishness, which can transform a person into a murderous cannibal. Native peoples over a vast stretch of North America—from Virginia in the south to Labrador in the north, from Nova Scotia in the east to Minnesota in the west—believed in the windigo, not only as a myth told in the darkness of winter, but also as a real danger.
Drawing on oral narratives, fur traders' journals, trial records, missionary accounts, and anthropologists’ field notes, this book is a revealing glimpse into indigenous beliefs, cross-cultural communication, and embryonic colonial relationships. It also ponders the recent resurgence of the windigo in popular culture and its changing meaning in a modern context.
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About the Author
Shawn Smallmanis a professor of International Studies at Portland State University. He received his PhD in history from Yale University and is the author of three critically acclaimed academic books, Fear and Memory in the Brazilian Army and Society, The AIDS Pandemic in Latin America, and (with Kim Brown) An Introduction to International and Global Studies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Windigo in Traditional and Contemporary Narratives 33
Chapter 2 "More Than a Canine Hunger" Frontier Encounters with the Windigo, 1636-1916 79
Chapter 3 "Stunned, Teased and Tormented" Missionaries and the Windigo, 1818-1960 110
Chapter 4 Prisons, Mental Asylums, and Residential Schools 141
Works Cited 205