Native American Cannibals – Are They Still Out There?
American history is often considered lean on the topic of cannibalism. True, the University of Colorado’s Union Cafeteria is named after one, Alfred Packer (1842 – 1907) who ate, the story goes, two of the three Republicans in his county. A few of us may remember modern-day cannibals like the Stella Maris College Rugby Team (1972) or Jeffrey Dahmer (1960 – 1994), but North American folklore is actually filled with stories of human flesh eaters.
In Southwestern Colorado, researchers have discovered the first clear evidence that Native Americans practiced cannibalism at a small Anasazi (ancient ones) settlement. Down south, early Spanish explorers took care to avoid the Karankawa of Southeast Texas who practiced ritual cannibalism. South of the U.S. border, Pre-Columbian Aztecs were notorious for eating their enemies. Upstate New York’s Mohawk were called man-eaters by their Algonquian enemies in colonial times.
As proof of their abhorrence of these eating habits, Algonquian-speaking people (Mohegan, Cree, Arapaho, Blackfoot and Cheyenne, to name only a few) of the U.S. and Canada tell tales of the dire consequences of eating human flesh: transformation into a hideous monster called the Windigo (sometimes spelled Wendigo).
The Windigo is described as a half-beast demon that possesses both human and monster characteristics. Descriptions of the beast vary, but generally it is said to be tall and lanky, have glowing eyes, long, yellowed fangs and extremely long tongues. Most have sallow skin sometimes matted with hair while some have scales. All Windigos are driven by an uncontrollable craving for human flesh.
How does a person become a Windigo? According to lore, one is created whenever a human resorts to cannibalism for survival. Once the initial crises of starvation ebbs, cannibals, no matter how repentant, become victims themselves and find their cravings for human flesh never ending. It is unclear what kind of transformation a person undergoes to become a monster or how much he remains a human, but one point is clear: they are possessed by a condition they cannot control, an illness without cure or relief except in death.
There are at least two Windigo-related cases on official record, both in Canada. One occurred in 1879 involving a Cree trapper named Swift Runner. The Northwest Mounted Police found evidence that he had killed and eaten his entire family. At trial, Swift Runner confessed and was hanged that summer.
The most famous Windigo-hunter was a Cree as well, named Jack Fiddler, who claimed to have killed at least 14 of the creatures. His last murder resulted in his imprisonment at the age of 87. In 1907, Fiddler and his son, Joseph, were indicted for the murder of a Cree woman. They both pleaded guilty to the crime with the defense that the monster had to be killed before she murdered members of the tribe. Fiddler committed suicide before trial. His son died in prison.
Some legends start for reasons lost to antiquity, but Windigo sightings are still reported. Some believe that these monsters are roaming the cold, dark wilderness of North America. Others would like to believe that legends are only that. The real question is: are Windigos phantoms of our past, or are they still out there?
An amazing story of the origins of the earth as told by the Navajo Nation peoples.
Spider Woman and the Holy Ones
Seen on the Navajo Nation official site.
Traditional stories of our elders were told to teach and entertain the children and grandchildren. Legends of the holy people like Spider Woman. She was first to weave her web of the universe and taught Diné (Navajo) to create beauty in their own life and spread the “Beauty Way” teaching of balance within the mind, body, & soul. In the creation stories of my elders, there are four worlds. Diné of today live in the fourth world, known as the “Glittering World”. The first world was black, where only land, air, water, and language existed. First the spirit holy ones were created and than the holy people, this creation was the most important event, which took place in the first world. The second world was known as the blue world of water, where air and land mammals were created. The holy ones gave life to Spider Woman & Spider Man. Only their inner spirits or souls were made. Their physical bodies were made later to contain their spirits, as all animate beings did, when they evolved into future worlds. In the third world the holy ones advised Spider Woman that she had the capabilities of weaving a map of the universe and the geometrical patterns of the spirit beings in the night sky. At first she did not know what they meant, and was not instructed how it should be done, but curiosity became her energy and driving force to weave her creations. On a beautiful day when she was out on the land, exploring and gathering food at the same time. She came upon a small young tree, which was just beginning to grow. She touched with her right hand and wrapped her fingers around one of the branches. When she released her right hand, a string was attached to the branch and it was streaming out from the middle of her palm. She was not quiet sure what it was, at first. She shook her hand to release the string, but it stayed attached to her hand. She thought the strings might detach if she kept wrapping it on the branch of the tree. She kept wrapping the string around the small extended branch and she became worried when she realized that she would run out of space on the first small extended tree branch.
There were so many strings on the small branch that it seemed it would break off, and then Spider Woman ran the string to another branch on the same tree. After doing this for awhile, she realized she was creating a pattern. She started maneuvering and manipulating the strings into various shapes. At this particular moment, she knew this was the weaving the holy people instructed her to do. Immediately she broke the string with her left hand without hesitation. She sat and thought carefully about how to use her new gift. For the rest of the day she sat close to the tree and wrapped the strings into various patterns on other branches of the small tree.
When she felt comfortable with her gift, she returned home with her gathered food and showed her newly acquired skill to her husband, Spider Man. After a period of time, Spider Woman began weaving within her home. The holy people heard about Spider Woman’s new talent and came to visit her. During the visit the holy ones instructed Spider Man to construct a weaving loom and also create the tools used in the various processes of weaving. Today, Diné (Navajo) men are the key makers of weaving looms and tools. With each tool created, a song, and a prayer were made and offered to Spider Man to use each time he created the tools, and this gave the tools a sense of purpose and unique life.
At this time Spider Woman began to sing the weaving song, given to her by the holy ones. The songs are empowering for the textiles, just as they are for the weaving tools. The tools were made from various trees. The weaving fork from the juniper tree, used to push the weft down, placing layers upon layers of weft, and thus creating a life. The sound of the weaving fork hitting the weft is considered the heartbeat sound of the textile. The weaving loom was made of the main trunk of a young juniper tree, with all the branches removed. It is made into two main supporting beam, which stand upright on the right and left sides of the loom frame, which represents the pillars holding up the sky and keeping the mother earth secure. The third beam is placed at the foot or base of the two pillars, which represent the earth on which we live. The forth beam is placed at the top, and represents the sunbeams and rainbows, protecting mother earth. It also represents the sky (atmosphere) and the universe. Diné men sang as they made the tools and weaving looms as instructed by Spider Man and Spider Woman, which were created in the fourth world, called the “Glittering World”.
The fourth world is where human beings were created, in the form of First man and First woman and inherited their physical bodies in a place called “Diné tah “. This place is considered to be the center of the world and a sacred place to Diné people. As children growing up at Spider Rock, Canyon De Chelly and Canyon Del Muerto, our grandmother would tell us of mischievous and disobedient children that were taken to Spider Woman and woven up in her tight weaving, after Talking God had spoken through the wind spirits to instruct Spider Woman on how to find and identify the bad little kids. Spider Woman would boil and eat the bad little kids, that is why there are white banded streaks at the top of Spider Rock, where the bones of the bad children still bleach the rocks to this day.
Today young weavers are instructed to find a spider web in the early morning dew glistening with sunlight and sparkles and place the palm of their right hand upon the spider’s webbing without destroying or damaging the web, and the gift of weaving will be transposed into the young weaver’s spirit forever.
Story by Adam Teller and Grandma Thompson
See more of the Navajo Nation here.
Peter Romero’s home and people are a proud tradition.
Please visit their site for more information: http://www.pueblodecochiti.org/
The Pueblo de Cochiti, (Cochiti), is located 55 miles north of Albuquerque, New Mexico and is contained within 53,779 acres of reservation land that sustains 1,175 Pueblo members according to the 1990 BIA census. Cochiti, the northernmost Keresan Pueblo in New Mexico, is located in Sandoval and Santa Fe Counties, approximately 13 miles northwest of Interstate 25 and 35 miles southwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The topographic elevation varies from 5300 to 6800 feet above mean sea level and is characterized by the Rio Grande, which flows through reservation lands. The principal land use includes farming, livestock, recreational, economic development, and agricultural and Pueblo home/residential construction purposes. The demographic breakdown includes: 880 acres for agricultural; 4,443 acres of lake areas and wild river Bosque/wetlands; 7,042 acres dedicated to economic development consisting of residential and commercial lease properties and a golf course; and 41,424 acres of rangeland, pinion/juniper woodlands and Pueblo and residential use lands.
The people of Cochiti continue to retain their native language of Keres. They maintain their cultural practices and have instituted programs dedicated to teaching and educating the younger generation Pueblo traditions and cultural practices emphasizing the native language. Cochiti is well known for their craftsmanship in making jewelry, pottery, (storyteller), and drums.
Water in the Rio Grande, flows through Pueblo lands and is intermittently stored behind Cochiti Dam, which at a maximum capacity stores 502,330 acre feet of water known as Cochiti Reservoir. Cochiti has recently developed a Farm Enterprise Plan, which included the restoration of large acreage’s of traditional farmland inundated by seepage caused by the storage of water behind Cochiti Dam. The reclamation of these lands, in cooperation with the US Army Corps of Engineers, (COE), was completed in September of 1994.
The Santa Fe River which headwaters in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains east of Santa Fe NM flows downstream through Santa Fe NM, La Cienega, NM and finally into pueblo lands at the mouth of La Bajada Canyon. The river flows through Pueblo lands and discharges into the Rio Grande several miles hence.
Historically, Cochiti has had no private employers or economic enterprises. This was changed with the Pueblo’s acquisition of the Town of Cochiti Lake and the creation of Cochiti Community Development Corporation, (CCDC) in 1995. The Town of Cochiti Lake was established under a 99-year lease agreement with private investors to establish residential housing units under a strict building code and relative covenants. The property has been under the direct management of Cochiti since the early 1980’s and has been a primary revenue source for the community.
Of primary importance to the Pueblo de Cochiti are the land, air and water on and adjacent to the reservation, which is the lifeline of the Pueblo Traditions and Culture. The Pueblo is located in the heart of the traditional homeland and it would be impossible to retain peoples and culture if the environment is impacted to the point where the Cochiti decide the land is dangerous to utilize for habitat, farming, fishing, hunting, and maintaining Cultural Tradition.