Discussion Questions for Readers (Spoiler Alert!)

Historians have called the 1500s "The Lost Century" because it's believed that epidemics of foreign diseases killed anywhere from 50 percent to 90 percent of all Native Americans. Did "Windigo Moon" deepen your understanding of this terrible time?

Ashagi and Misko have a deep love for one-another over the course of their 31 years together but cheat on each other at a low point in their marriage. Did this ring true for you?

"Windigo Moon" has four main characters: Ashagi, Misko, Nika and Animi-ma'lingan (the Old Man), along with scores of minor characters. Was it difficult for you keeping track of the characters? Was the glossary helpful?

The Ojibwe survived by sharing everything from birth to death, including child-raising, food and their scant resources. What could we learn from the Ojibwe to improve our own world?

At the end of the book, Ashagi dies from an infectious kiss forced upon her by a trader (viral hepatitis). Did "Windigo Moon" help you to understand the impact of foreign diseases on the Indians?

"Windigo Moon" has some violent descriptions of torture taken from eye-witness historical accounts. Nika blames Misko and his father Ogaa for the horrendous death of his younger brother, whom he has raised as a son, and this sparks a life-long hatred. Did this spoil the book for you, or was it necessary for the plot?

The end of "Windigo Moon" offers two visions of the afterlife envisioned by Native Americans. Ashagi and Misko are reunited on the star trail, but part of Misko remains in the Spirit Land to inhabit the body of a hibernating bear, making a Christ-like sacrifice to save his children. Did "Windigo Moon" deepen your knowledge of Indian spirituality?

Would you like to read a prequel to the book, "He Who Outruns the Wolves," based on the early life of the shaman, Animi-ma'lingan?


  Extensive historical research went into the writing of "Windigo Moon - A Novel of Native America," with the following being a chapter-by-chapter citation of source material:

The Raid—Summer, 1588

“. . . they had lost the warlike ways of their southern cousins, who called them waub-ose, or rabbits: History of the Ojibways by William Warren, p. 50.
They heard the groans of those being butchered and knew the voices among them. Details of dismemberment and beliefs of the afterlife from The Heart of Everything That Is by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, pp. 8-9, 35-36. Also: “The majority of tribes believed that all humans went to the same idyllic afterlife in the exact physical condition in which they had died,” p. 58.
Ashagi counted more than 200 warriors on her fingers and toes: raiding parties of this size were rare before the arrival of the white man, his trade guns, and competition for the fur trade. By 1649, however, some 1,000 Iroquois warriors attacked the villages of Huronia.
It was the name the Dakota gave the Ojibwe for their habit of roasting their enemies: Indian Names in Michigan by Virgil Vogel, p. 7.
“They are ab-boin-ug, ab-boin-ug!” The Dakota and the Ojibwe called each other roasters. O-jib means to “pucker up,” while ub-way means “to roast,” according to an Ojibwe historian. History of the Ojibways by William Warren, p. 13.
Like all young women, she knew her value to men: Anthropologists and evolutionary biologists such as Napoleon Chagnon claim that tribal conflicts often arose among primitive people in a quest to obtain women from other bands. This theory has been hotly disputed by other anthropologists.
“Naduesiu,” she whispered back to them under her breath. For “little snakes” is what the Ojibwe called the Dakota and their other enemies, the Haudenosaunee.
A child who would not stop screaming was sent to the shadow lands: The Heart of Everything that Is by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, p. 8.
“the people who draw pictures,” Website, “History of the Ojibwe.”

The Sun Dance
In those days, the Sioux had not yet grasped the value of the horse: The Lakota Sioux were familiar with the horse as early as their Winter Count of 1624, but did not start riding them in earnest until the 1700s. “The Heart of Everything That Is,” by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, p. 42.
The Ojibwe sun god as a handsome youth walking on the wind: observation of George Nelson, early 19th century trader.
Sun dance description, from “Crazy Horse and Custer,” by Stephen E. Ambrose, p. 416-417.

Snail Eye
“It is so their ancestors will know them when they die,” from an article by Ruth Hopkins in Indian Country, 11/27/15.

Ashagi’s Revenge
Description of death by measles for those who have no resistance from “Darkness in Eldorado,” by Patrick Tierney, p. 66.
“She threw the squalling thing into the river...” Regarding infanticide, “In most North American Indian societies, the parents had the power of life and death over their newborn infant and did not have to consult any higher authority to dispose of it.” From “Indians of North America” by Harold E. Driver, p. 367.

Red Moon
The woman’s eyes widened in surprise: the Ojibwe knew one-another at first glance by their puckered moccasins. Some sources claim that the word Ojibwe means “puckered moccasins.”
Those who gave away their names to strangers risked having them shouted aloud in the forest to be heard by bad spirits: A common fear among primitive peoples, from “Yanamamo, the Fierce People,” by Napoleon Chagnon.

The Walleye
Misshipeshu, the underwater panther: the most renowned monster of the Ojibwe, a pictograph of the creature can be viewed on the boulders of the Agawa region on Lake Superior in Ontario.
The story of Coosa and the town of Itaba from A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz.
. . . he had taken the hair of an enemy: Scalping technique, as described by Ojibwe Chief Kahkewaquonaby in “Cry of the Thunderbird,” by Charles Hamilton, p. 108.
Their village was on Kitchi Minissing: Grand Island, offshore from the present-day town of Munising in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
It was the custom of the Anishinaabek to give a child a nickname, often with a touch of humor and humility: from “Chippewa Customs,” by Frances Densmore, p. 53.

Outruns the Wolves
“A decision was made to leave the babe for the wolves and their brothers”: Regarding infanticide, it was “practiced in every culture area... Deformed infants were frequently killed, especially in the more nomadic areas.” From Indians of North America by Harold E. Driver, p. 366.
The Mide-wi-win: the “Good Hearted Ones,” renowned for healing and communing with spirits. “Ojibway Ceremonies” by Basil Johnston, p. 95.
Society of Shamans: more commonly known as the Grand Medicine Lodge.
The migration of the Ojibwe is from the bark scroll of the Red Sky Migration Chart at the Glenbow-Alberta Institute in Calgary, Canada. The chart describes the Ojibwe’s odyssey from the Atlantic coast to Leech Lake, MN.
Physical description of birch scroll from The Mide’wiwin or Grand Medicine Society of the Ojibwa by Walter James Hoffman, p. 166.
“The time of the Great Flood and the Old Ones . . .” An ancient flood is alluded to in many Indian legends, similar to that depicted in the Bible. The author has conjectured that this could refer to the melting of the Ice Age glaciers, with memories of that time preserved by the oral tradition.
Creation myth of the Ojibwe from The Mide’wiwin or Grand Medicine Society of the Ojibwa by Walter James Hoffman, p. 176.
Fate of the Mundawaek: Ojibway Ceremonies by Basil Johnston, p. 167—History of the Ojibway People” by William Warren, pp. 55-57.
“Once, we lived in the sky, far up among the stars.” This is a myth of the the Harakmbut people of the Amazon, borrowed under poetic license from “Keep the River on Your Right,” by Tobias Schneebaum.
Description of the djasakids and nenan dawiiweds: Chippewa Customs, Frances Densmore, p. 13 and 44-46.
. . . wrapped in birch bark and set ablaze by the Odugamies: as described in “History of the Ojibways” by William Warren, p. 83.

The Coming of Age
The vision quest ritual, from Ojibway Ceremonies, by Basil Johnston, pp. 4-50.
“. . . the red earth people of the Odugamies: tradition holds that the Fox Indians, as they were later known, were driven out of Upper Michigan into Wisconsin. From there, they migrated to other parts of the Midwest, including the Detroit area.

Politics of War
. . . the Haudenosaunee had formed a confederation of five tribes called the League of the Longhouse: the League may have been established as early as the 1100s, but most historians believe it was in the 1500s or early 1600s.
Ma’linganbawi had raised a war party of more than 400 warriors: Indian raiding parties on blood feuds typically ranged from a handful of warriors to as many as 50, but Ojibwe historian William Warren claims that forces of Odugamies, Dakotas and Ojibwes attacked one-another in flotillas as large as 1,000 warriors.
. . . a replica of his own hand out of buckskin: “Chippewa Customs” by Frances Densmore, p. 133.

The Warriors are Gathered
“Strike the pole and show that you are among the brave!” Warfare ritual from Ojibway Ceremonies by Basil Johnstone, pp. 63-69.
The Old Man had given him five copper arrowheads: the Ojibwe dug copper mining pits in the western Upper Peninsula and on Isle Royale, hammering the metal into shape. Copper trade objects have been found as far away as South America.
Ogaa’s sleep was untroubled by dreams: The Sioux war chief Roman Nose had a similar experience, laying on a raft and fasting without food or water for four days prior to battling white invaders in the Powder River country. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown. Page 116.
You must eat without gagging to prove you are no coward: Ojibway Ceremonies by Basil Johnstone, p. 69.
Misko had heard of his father’s practice of devouring the hearts of those he had killed: A contemporary description of ritual cannibalism and the heart-eating ceremony comes from the Akaramam tribe in Keep the River on Your Right, by Tobias Schneebaum. Also, Ojibwe captive Alexander Henry described ritual cannibalism as a reluctant custom which, “inspired warriors with courage,” from Attack at Fort Michilimackinac, edited by David A. Armour. Another heart-eating ceremony is offered in The Huron Farmers of the North, by Bruce G. Trigger, p. 51.

The Moose
Everything under the sky had a manito, or spirit, watched over by Kitchi Manito: Rites of Conquest by Charles Cleland, p. 68.

The Way Home
Deadfall description from a display at the First Peoples’ exhibit, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.
Ritual upon killing a bear: Rites of Conquest by Charles Cleland, p. 67.
Misko recognized them as the gluttonous pigeons which ate themselves sick: passenger pigeons were famously stupid; the Native Americans collected them in the hundreds.
Then the men joined in the fire torture and the skinning began: Ritual tortures with fire, mutilation, skinning and dismemberment could extend for days on end. Indians of North America, by Harold E. Driver, p. 324. The Heart of Everything That Is by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, p. 35-36.
“Give her to me to replace my brother.” Indians sometimes adopted a captive to replace a lost loved-one. This happened to Scottish Highlander Robert Kirk, who was adopted by a Shawnee brave following a battle in the French and Indian War. Through So Many Dangers, edited by Ian McCulloch and Timothy Todish, p. 41.
Grasping two handfuls of ashes from the pit at the center of the village, Misko buried his face in their dust: description of grieving and burial practices from The Indians of the Western Great Lakes, by W. Vernon Kinietz, pp. 280-281. Burning of warriors killed in battle: p. 325.
Description of measles: Measles affected Native Americans to an extreme degree, compared to the white explorers who introduced the disease and many others in the 1500s. It was accompanied by severe bleeding from every orifice. It’s estimated that 3,000 Yanomami died on the Ocamo River in 1968, reducing the population to less than 200. p. 69, Darkness in Eldorado, by Patrick Tierney.

The Time of Ceremony
Stewing in a birch vessel: this was done with the wet inner bark turned outward as a defense against the fire. Chippewa Customs by Frances Densmore, p. 41.
Sacrificing food to the dead. “They believe that the soul partakes in a portion of the feast, especially that which is consumed by fire.” Ojibwe Chief Kahkewaquonaby, Cry of the Thunderbird, by Charles Hamilton, p. 95.
Gifts versus trade: The Indians did not have the concept of trade as we know it. They gave gifts of commensurate value in exchange for other items they desired. If a corresponding gift was deemed unsuitable, they took back their own. From The Heart of Everything That Is, by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin.
Medical efforts of the djasakid “jugglers” from Chippewa Customs by Frances Densmore, p. 44.
That night they held the wedding feast... the ceremony of weedjeewaugun: Ojibway Ceremonies by Basil Johnston, p. 79.
Mourning customs/cutting hair: Chippewa Customs.
Ashagi set about making the lodge her own: “The lodge itself with all its arrangements, its the precinct of the rule and government of the wife . . . In a space so small as a lodge, this system preserves order, and being at all times under her own eye, is enforced by personal supervision. The husband has no voice in this matter. The American Indians: Their History, Condition and Prospects, by Henry Schoolcraft.

Baug-ah-ud-o-way: “The game was considered good training for warfare: from The Book of Indian Crafts by Julian Harris Salomon, p. 264.
Biboon: The literal meaning of the word is “winter,” but can also be interpreted as “winter maker” and the north wind spirit of the Algonquin tribes. From nativelanguages.org.
Apportionment of game: Rites of Conquest, Charles Cleland, p. 61.
Maple sugar technique using hot rocks in wooden trenches: as described in the historical museum at Sault Ste. Marie, Canada.
Minose was Ashagi’s chosen friend as the result of a dream: The Huron Farmers of the North, by Bruce G. Trigger, p. 99.
Singing Feast: a ritual borrowed here from the Wendats, The Huron Farmers of the North, Trigger, p. 95.

The Obsession of Lone Goose
Head men and warfare: Civil chiefs handling the everyday doings of a band had to demonstrate their worth as warriors to command authority. The Indians of North America by Harold E. Driver, p. 322.
Battle tactics: Indians throughout North America preferred to kill by stealth and ambush with overpowering force, seldom attacking in a direct assault. From the memoirs of Ojibwe Chief Kahkewaquonaby, Cry of the Thunderbird, by Charles Hamilton, p. 107.
Ogaa’s collection of skulls: Whether the ancient Ojibwe collected heads is a matter of conjecture, but other tribes were known to: in 1803, sailors angered the people of the Nootka tribe on Vancouver Island and 25 of them were beheaded, from Captured by the Indians, edited by Frederick Drimmer, p. 224.

The Empty Womb
Cohosh root was considered a remedy for infertility: website, Native American Herbal Remedies.
Making a bow: As described in Chippewa Customs by Frances Densmore, p. 146.
But most of all, he confided the secret skill of a true hunter: from Rites of Conquest by Charles Cleland, p. 67.

The Burden
. . . an old woman, said to be more than 80 summers old, was accused of being a witch: The Huron: Farmers of the North by Bruce G. Trigger—p. 86-89.
The fox witch and animal metamorphosis: from the reminiscence of Ojibwe Chief Kahkewaquonaby, Cry of the Thunderbird, by Charles Hamilton, p. 89.

The Way South
It was nahme, the sturgeon, who saved the Amiks . . . Fishing techniques from Chippewa Customs by Frances Densmore, p. 126.
The shells were black, the symbols of death: from Cry of the Thunderbird, by Charles Hamilton, p. 31.
. . . a scarring disease had fallen upon the confederation of the Wendat tribes, causing their bodies to bubble up in pock marks: description of smallpox from 1491 by Charles C. Mann, pp. 99-100.
The Old Man felt a stirring in his tobacco pouch: a superstition of the Wendats from “The Huron: Farmers of the North,” by Bruce G. Trigger—p. p. 98.
At first, those who met the strangers thought they were dead men, or possibly only shadows, wdjibbon: Rites of Conquest by Charles Cleland, p. 74.
Legend of the Sleeping Bear: namesake of the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, a federal park in Michigan’s lower peninsula.

Ashagi’s Choice
Attended by thousands: In 1641, two Black Robes of the Jesuits preached to 2,000 Indians at Boweting and historian Bruce Catton claimed that native peoples had gathered at these rapids, “since time began.”
Wagering: customary among both men and women, Huron book, p. 100.
Divorce customs—Rites of Conquest, Charles Cleland, p. 58.
Birthing—women expected to show no pain. The Huron Farmers of the North by Bruce G. Trigger.
Fashioning a cradle board—p. 48, Chippewa Customs.
Dream catchers—description from exhibit at the People of the River Museum, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

Tales of the Old Man
Ministigweyaa: Today known as the Manistee River in northwestern lower Michigan, the “river with islands at its mouth.”
Story of Little Crow and Clover: adaptation of a story told by Waub-o-jeeg (White Fisher), a chief of the Mississippi Ojibwe who lived with the Dakotas in his youth. Related by Wm. Warren, p. 162, History of OJP.
Account of Haudenosaunee torture: from Indians by William Brandon, p. 182. Much of what we know of Haudenosaunee and Wendat torture was observed by French explorers and Jesuit missionaries. A lengthy (and far more gruesome) description of torture techniques and the treatment of captives is offered in The Huron Farmers of the North by Bruce G. Trigger, pp. 48-51.
Cut off bow string fingers: an ordeal of the Mohawks suffered by Jesuit Father Isaac Jogues, described in the book and resulting film, Black Robe, by Brian Moore. Also described in The Huron Farmers of the North by Trigger, p. 48.
Aireskoi, the “spiritual essence of hunting and war” among the Haudenosaunee, from Rites of Conquest by Charles Cleland, P. 83.
Description of a Haudenosaunee town, including its palisade and maze from the Lake Crawford Iroquoian Village in southern Ontario.
The Old Man’s escape takes him along the southern shore of Lake Erie and up the Detroit River, through Lake St. Clair to Lake Huron.

The Ice World
Immense timber wolf: from a 1935 account of a hunter from Newberry, Michigan who killed a wolf that was nearly seven feet long, weighing about 200 lbs. It took four shots from a rifle to bring the animal down.
Etiology of frostbite: various websites.

The Friend of Man
The Begging Dance—Chippewa Customs by Frances Densmore.
The giving of presents: Rites of Conquest, Cleland, p. 56.

The Windigo
The Odaawaa on Manitowaaling: driven from their home along the Ottawa River in Canada in the 1600s, the Odaawaa settled on Manitoulin Island at the north end of Lake Huron as well as along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.
Description of a windigo: Ojibwe Ceremonies, Basil Johnstone. Various websites. Also, “Bite Marks,” a Lore podcast by Aaron Mahnke.

The End of the World, 1617
“Iron,” the tall stranger said solemnly: the white man’s trade goods of iron, beads, clothing and many other items made life much easier for Native Americans and were welcome improvements. On the down side, as is infamously known, Native Americans suffered grievously from the introduction of alcohol, and trade guns were often used to attack less fortunate tribal enemies to the west. The Ojibwe historian William Warren wrote that the Ojibwe eventually overcame their ancestral enemies, the Dakota, through the use of firearms.

The Red Bear
He met her at a crossroads: many Indians believed there were two paths to the afterlife. One led to the star path of the Milky Way. More desirable, however, was to remain a spirit on the earth, hunting the spirits of animals.