Jack Fiddler, also known as Zhauwuno-geezhigo-gaubow (“he who stands in the southern sky”), was a Cree man who belonged to the Sucker people of Sandy Lake, on the upper reaches of the Severn River in northwestern Ontario. He was a headman of his people and was renowned for his healing abilities and for his power to fight evil spirits.
Fiddler and his brother Pesequan (aka Joseph Fiddler) were self-proclaimed Wendigo hunters who would travel around in search of people whom were reputed to have consumed human flesh, or when requested by family members who feared that one of their people was turning into the monster. It was reputed that they killed 17 Wendigo.
By 1907, word of their Wendigo killings reached the North-West Mounted Police, and a patrol was dispatched to investigate. On their travels the Mounties learned of Wahsakapeequay, a woman suspected of being possessed by the creature. She had been choked to death with a piece of string by Pesequan and Jack. The Mounties found the evidence credible and the brothers were arrested and charged with murder on June 15.
After 15 weeks of captivity, the Jack escaped, fled into the woods, and killed himself. Joseph’s trial began a week later. He had no legal representation and was quickly found guilty and ordered to hang.
Following Joseph’s conviction, some questioned whether the brothers should have been punished for committing an act that wasn’t an offense in their culture. For evidence of this, one need look no further than Fiddler’s statement to police, in which he insisted that “I did not know what I was doing was wrong, and if I had known, I would not have done the deed.” However, critics of the sentence failed to get it overturned. Joseph Fiddler died from illness before he could hang, and in 1910, after losing two of their leaders, the Sandy Lake First Nation signed Treaty Five with the Canadian federal government, ending their freedom and forcing them onto a reserve.