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Fiddler, Thomas and James R. Stevens.

Moonbeam (Ont.), Penumbra Press, c1985. 218pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0-920806-81-3.

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Algis Tribinevicius

Volume 14 Number 5
1986 September

In the autumn of 1907, a very unusual case in the history of Canadian jurisprudence commenced in Norway House, Manitoba. Charged with murder was old Jack Fiddler, a shaman and leader of the Sucker clan from the upper Severn River, in what is now northwestern Ontario. Joseph Fiddler, Jack's younger brother, was also charged. Their alleged crime was the killing of a possessed woman who had turned into the dreaded windigo, an evil and cannibalistic other-than-human being. Killing the Shamen is the true account of the events that lead up to the so-called murder, the trial, and the aftermath. James R. Stevens went to Sandy Lake to meet Chief Thomas Fiddler, the grandson of Jack Fiddler. Hundreds of pages of interviews were recorded and an oral history of the events was put together into book form.

Many insights are gathered about life in the still remote area of northwestern Ontario at the turn of the century. The book is well footnoted, contains a glossary of native terms, has a large bibliography, and an index. It is illustrated with twenty-eight black-and-white photos, dating back to 1907. The book is a very interesting glimpse into a way of life that is no more. It investigates a class of cultural opinions about spiritual matters and is a good example to others working with oral stories as to how-to put together oral history. The book could be used by senior high school students doing research into the northwestern Ojib-way and is interesting reading by itself.

Algis Tribinevicius, Tehkummah, Manitoulin Island, Ont.
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