Wendigo: Cannibalism in Native American Folklore

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Cannibalism in Native American Folklore

Connor Downie
EN156-01: Mythology
Professor Quinn

Lurking in the deep woods of the Northern United States and Southern Canada lies a mysterious and fearsome Native American monster, the Wendigo. The Wendigo is by far one of the most mysterious and feared monsters in not only in the Algonquian folklore which it is attributed to, but also other indigenous populations all over the world. Although this creature goes by many names in the Native American Tribes, including Wechuge (Athapaskan Beaver), Windigo (Algonkian), Witiko (Sekani), Wittikow (Cree), Wintuc (Lenape), Wintiko (Objibwa), and others, it is represented in the folklore of many cultures. For the sake of simplicity, the
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There are two kinds of Wendigos, Non-Human and Human. The first human Wendigo is sometimes said to have been a man who, driven mad by hunger and snow blindness, mistook his family for a group of beavers, killed and ate them (Smith 68). Human Wendigos do not always take on the traditional described appearance unless they are exposed to the severe isolation required to drive the person mad. Most human Wendigos mostly retain their human features, and instead only experience the desire for loneliness and a craving for human flesh. Also common to stories, both in legend and those recorded by persons studying native tribes, was the belief that a person transforming into a Wendigo had lost permanent control over their own actions and that the only possible solution is death (Ridington 108). Many people, fearing that they would bring harm to their family, begged for death rather than face a full transformation. Human Wendigos, although powerful, can be killed by dismemberment and the burning the remains to prevent the evil spirit from ever returning to the earth (Atwood 85). In the majority of stories that result in the death of a Wendigo, that Wendigo was at one time a human. Other traditional cures involved the consumption of copious amounts of hot grease from sources such as bear fat, melted deer tallow, and sturgeon oil

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