Mrs. John Cochran’s mother ordered the disposal of her own self by burning. At about 60 years, she ordered her brother-in-law to kill here, because she said she was becoming a windigo, and was afraid she would eat people. Some bad Indian had done this to her. So she had the following orders executed: her brother-in-law was to put a rope around her neck and seat her and hit her once on the head with the blunt end of an ax (traditional mode of stunning bears and gos). Then she would fall forward and be choked. Then they were to strip the tent of its belongings, and burn the tent with her. Her brother-in-law, not her husband, was to do this; if the latter did it she would not die.
A number of persons at one time or another contemplate suicide. Some momentary distress will incite them – such as a mother’s scolding of a girl, the loss of a husband’s affection, the death of relatives – but a momentary encouragement, like the appearance of a new lover, or a mother’s soothing voice, will dissuade them. Some people do commit suicide. Others, who are afflicted with characteristic windigo insanity, order themselves burned either before or after death, and no one can gainsay them. Mrs. Cochran felt that she was becoming windigo: the people around her looked like beavers and she wanted to eat them. So she ordered her brother-in-law to strait-jacket her, stun her with an ax, and then set fire to her and her tent. While this was done, her husband and children looked on, for she had an undisputed right to dispose of herself as she chose.
[#1] Ojibwa: “Mrs. Cochran Becoming a Windigo,” from R. Landes, Ojibwa Sociology. Columbia University Contributions to Anthropology, vol. 29, New York: Columbia University, 1937, p. 105, and R. Landes, The Ojibwa of Canada, in M. Mead, ed., Cooperaton and Competition among Primitive People, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1937, p. 101.