Dangerous Spirits

Dangerous Spirits

The Windigo in Myth and History

By (author): Shawn Smallman
ISBN 9781772030327
Softcover | Publication Date: November 7, 2014
Book Dimensions: 6 in x 9 in
232 Pages

About the Book

“Highly readable and well researched.” —Canada’s History

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.

About the Author(s)

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.


"Dangerous Spirits is a fascinating look at the stories of the Windigo heard by early missionaries, fur traders, colonial officials, and legal authorities, and those told by Native elders. Smallman has written a book that is highly readable and well researched." —Nelle Oosterom, Canada's History
"The author covers a vast range of topics about wetigos, including historical references and their presence in popular literature. This is a well-written book, and the only way one can properly describe it is 'fascinating.'" —Alberta History
"Shawn Smallman's study surveys over three centuries of documentary and literary records . . . This book is an impressive and valuable contribution to the literature on windigo." —Jennifer S. Brown American, Indian Culture and Research Journal
"Shawn Smallman's skills as a historian allow him to present his argument in a compelling and effective manner. The quantity of sources cited by Smallman relays the importance of the Windigo across generations and speaks to the strength of oral narrative as a historical record. This book would be a suitable addition to a Canadian Studies or Indigenous Studies course that wishes to discuss issues of power, authority and social change." —Gerald P. McKinley, The Canadian Journal of Native Studies
"Dangerous Spirits is a fascinating book. I believe it would be equally fascinating to those interested in Windigos or in the intercultural history of Canada. Furthermore, ethnohistorians of this region, or medical anthropologists interested in culture-bound syndromes, may find this book very useful." —Brian Gleeson, Great Plains Quarterly