Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Sociology, Anthropology & Criminal Justice; College of Arts & Sciences
Ana Maria Garcia
The Canadian indigenous myth of the windigo, originating from Algonquian-speaking tribes of the subarctic Northeast like Ojibwe and Cree, is a manifestation for a multitude of fears. This myth originated hundreds of years ago in order to explain the horror and lack of understanding of a mental illness, which would later be known as Windigo Psychosis. Windigo Psychosis is a culture-bound syndrome for an insatiable desire to consume human flesh. A culture-bound syndrome is recognizable and unique only within a specific society or culture, so in other words, Windigo Psychosis is specific to this area in Canada due to a combination of elements required for it to happen. The region has harsh winters with sparse amounts of food available, combined with extreme isolation. Additionally, there is the ultimate taboo of cannibalism which results in something akin to the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy occuring. The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, in regards to the windigo, is an interpretation of a situation which causes the action. If a person believes they are transforming into a windigo, based on this theory, they subconsciously turn it into a reality. When a person had to cannibalize out of necessity in order to survive or else starve, they realized they committed the ultimate taboo of anthropophagus behavior. Because this region of people grew up with the apprehension of this mythological creature, when any symptoms began to appear similar to the windigo, they believed it to be true and made it happen. The myth of the windigo before the European invasion in the late 1600s and early 1700s. The imperialistic nations defended their invasions through ideas that would later be known as the West versus the Rest theory. This theory outlines a method where nations modernized specifically in six attributes and saw an exponential growth. This exponential growth, also known as Westernization, led to them expanding across the world. By expanding through invading other societies that were nowhere near as powerful, including the Algonquian-speaking indigenous tribes of Northeast Canada, they were able to overpower them so they could purloin them of their resources for personal gain. With this invasion, the windigo myth had a resurgence in popularity. This was due to both the documentation of a myth that previously existed exclusively in oral form, in addition to the monster representing a new fear of the colonizers. The windigo is a creature that represents a substantial amount of anxieties, including the aversion of not understanding a mental health disorder like Windigo Psychosis, the indigenous dread of being dislodged from their land by European settlers, and others. The windigo does not represent merely one metaphor for dread; instead it encompasses a multitude of metaphors. Fear manifests itself in a variety of ways, and the windigo represents the majority of these despairs.
Carlough, Christine, "“Tell Me, Bambi or Yogi Ever Hunt You Back?” The Windigo Myth: A Metaphor for Imperialism and Mental Illness" (2019). Senior Capstone Theses. 46.
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