Coyote traveled far and wide in search of interesting things to do. One day his journey took him farther north than he had ever been before. He discovered a small summertime village and decided to ask the people there for a place to rest.
When Coyote entered the village he could tell something was not right. There were no children playing outside. Few people were doing any sort of work, and those he did see were only engaging in it half-heartedly. Coyote approached a man. "Hello," he said, "I am tired and would like to find a place to rest for the night."
"You should not stay here," the man said. "Every night a monster comes out of the forest and drags somebody away to eat. Our bravest men have already died fighting it. It will not be long before it has killed us all."
This made Coyote angry. He had fun playing pranks on the humans, and they were usually more hospitable to him than the animals. He was not going to stand by and let them all be killed by some monster. He went to the local medicine man. "What can you tell me about this monster?" he said. "Maybe I can help you kill it."
"The monster was once a man," the medicine man said. "Last winter was harsh and hunting was bad. A young hunter showed up in the summertime village without his family. When pressed about what happened on his winter hunting grounds, he confessed that he had offended the spirits. They did not send enough game for him to survive, so he killed his own wife and children, and ate them. I summoned the Spirit of Starvation, Wendigo, and told it to go into this man. He will relive the horror of his crime for as long as Wendigo keeps him alive."
"What about the other people?" Coyote said. "What did they do to deserve being killed by Wendigo?"
"I must make an example of this man," the medicine man said. "The people will see what happens, and they will not do these terrible things. You are an outsider. You have no right to judge."
Coyote was shocked. Some kind of madness must have clouded the old medicine man's mind, leading him to misuse his connection with the spirits. "We both think we are right," he said, "so let us ask a third party to cast the final judgment."
They went into a sweat lodge and called to the spirits that guided the people. The sweat lodge filled with a suffocating heat. Coyote felt faint, but he knew he was right to intervene, so he was not afraid. When the unnatural heat relented the medicine man lay dead on the floor of the sweat lodge.
Coyote went to the people of the village and said he had a plan to save them from Wendigo. He told them to dig a hole and put logs into it, and then he had them roll a large rock into place beside the hole. He cut up the body of the medicine man. When it grew dark he lit the logs.
The man who was possessed by Wendigo stepped out of the forest into the firelight. He grinned at the trembling people. His eyes were pale like blue ice. He had nails like those of Lynx and teeth like Wolf. He stopped grinning when he saw the stranger, Coyote, and the hole in the ground. He tilted his head to one side. "What are you doing?" he asked Coyote.
Coyote picked up a piece of the medicine man's body and threw it into the hole. "I have come here to eat all of these people," he said, "but first I made them dig me this cooking pit."
Wendigo tilted his head to the other side. "Why cook them?" he said. "Raw is better."
Coyote laughed. "You know nothing about eating people," he said. "They taste best when cooked this way."
Coyote threw the rest of the pieces into the pit and told the people to roll the rock over it. He waited until the smell of cooking meat filled the air, then had them roll it back.
"Is it ready?" Wendigo said.
Coyote began to reach down into the pit. "Yes," he said, "but you will have to wait. If there are any scraps left I will let you have them."
Wendigo snarled and shoved Coyote aside. He leaned over to grab the meat. Coyote pushed him into the pit and the people quickly rolled the rock over it. Wendigo's roars of pain filled the air. He clawed at the rock and it began to move, but the people worked together to hold it down. His screams melted into moans, and then all was quiet.
Before they could celebrate a strong wind started up. Sleet stung their faces. A voice howled to them from the storm. "I will return," it said.
The storm disappeared as quickly as it had come. The people were dismayed when they realized they were not truly free from Wendigo. Coyote tried to encourage them. "I cannot keep Wendigo from taking what the medicine man promised it," he said, "but you can prevent this from happening again. You must make sure everyone knows what will happen if they taste human flesh. It is better to die of starvation than invite Wendigo to take you."
Coyote rested in the village and went on his way. The people remembered his words and handed them down to generation after generation of their children. This happened until the White Men came. They did not believe in Wendigo. As they raised generation after generation of their own children, fewer and fewer people were taught Coyote's warning. Wendigo is fine with this. It will happily take anyone regardless of what that person believes.