Wendy Down Wind, How Wiindigoo Got His Name.
Dedicated to Windy Downwind who told a version of this story 20 years ago at a winter camp at White Earth.
On a cold winter night at Gaa-waabaabiganikaag (White Earth), a child asked the storyteller: “Why are you called Windy?”
Windy smiled and said to the children gathered around him, “Have any of you ever heard of the Wiindigoo?”
The children shook their heads no.
“A long time ago, there were these bad people called Wiindigoog,” the storyteller began.
“They were mean and ferocious. And the Ojibwe feared them because they ate people.”
“On cold winter nights, they would sneak into wiigiwaaman, steal people, and take them back to their village where they were cooked in a pot and then eaten.”
“People would sit up all night around their lodge fires, huddling and shivering together…not because they were cold but because they were afraid of the Wiindigoog.”
One day when the women were checking their rabbit snares and the men checking their trap lines, they heard the children screaming and yelling. They ran back to see what the commotion was about.
They stood on a hill and looked down. There on a log sat a huge man with children all around him.
“It’s a Wiindigoo!” the parents hollered as they ran down the hillside, picking up sticks and branches to beat the Wiindigoo with.
But when they got close, they noticed that the children weren’t screaming and yelling because they were about to be eaten. The children were screaming and yelling in laughter, some laughing so hard that they were rolling in the snow. They were laughing at a Nenabozho story that the Wiindigoo was telling…a story about Nenabozho getting his butt burned in a fire and his butt fell off and got so mad that it chased Nenabozho all around his camp.
The Wiindigoo looked over at the parents and smiled: “Oh, you don’t have to worry. I’m not here to eat the children. Their laughter and smiles is what feeds me.”
Thereafter, Windy – as the children called him – came back at night and told his Nenabozho stories. When he went home, Windy was happy and filled with the laughter and smiles of the children within him. And in the lodges, the dreamcatchers of the children were filled with good thoughts and bright dreams.
“So you see,” the storyteller said, “I’m the Wiindigoo in the story but everyone just calls me Windy. And whenever you hear the name Wiindigoo, you’ll remember me because I am the best known and kindest Wiindigoo on Mother Earth.”
Then he grabbed the child who asked him about his name and tickled her. Amid the crackles of the wood burning stove, the storyteller, the child, and the other children smiled and laughed on that cold winter night at Gaa-waabaabiganikaag.