The windigo of Three Day Road, can be seen as a significant sign as to the importance of maintaining cultural identity. The story of the windigo provides a meaningful setting through which this creature is brought about, and how much of its substance is contained due to the invasion and authority of the white man, over the Native peoples.
In World War I, the European setting demonstrates the primary causes for the spiritual ruin of Elijah, “Weesacheejak”, who is one of the novel’s main characters. Elijah was deeply influenced by the Wemistikoshiw’s (the white mans) beliefs and according to Xavier, evolved into a windigo, which Niska, characterizes by saying: “…sadness so pure that it [shrivels] the human heart and [lets] something else grow in its place” (Boyden 261). Completely opposite to Elijah, Niska realizes the need that spirituality provides and how it is rooted in tradition, and she is also able to recognize the windigo as an obvious result of the wemistikoshiw’s influence on her people. Niska’s nephew, Xavier, is boldly and rebelliously against the European ideal in very much the same way as Niska is against the white man. He sacrifices his physical well-being for the sake of the Cree culture which he holds very dear and which he had hopes to return to. All three of these characters were obviously affected negatively by the influence of the white man, although in different ways. Each of these people had varying exposure and effects due to their experience with the wemistikoshiw culture that related accordingly to what they endured and how they ended up. Three Day Road, explains the Windigo’s distortion of identity through the personalities and voices of Xavier, Niska and Elijah via their cultural observance, their contrasting health, and also their intense relationships. Both Western and Aboriginal societies share a fundamental principle, but they differ extremely in their essential values. Xavier is aware of this differences between the Wemistikoshiw and the Native peoples, saying: “…I’m left wondering what connection there might be between their [the European] world and mine” (246), in a manner which would suggest that a person must belong to either one ‘world’ or another, but never both simultaneously. Xavier chooses to live by the traditions of his own people. The only Western name that was given to Xavier is ‘X’, because of his extraordinary shooting precision (Boyden 109). Xavier disregards this despite that the name has positive connotations, instead preferring to stay with the name given to him by his cherished Aboriginal friends. It is very obvious that Xavier’s abondonment of the wemistikoshiw ways runs very deep, and that even when he is facing some of the external, culture-based adversity, for him becoming an outcast is always a more desirable option to the rejection or desertion of his traditions. He is different from the other soldiers, because Xavier never learns to enjoy killing he never even the slightly developes an appetite for killing, he believes that killing is wasteful. At first, Xavier is very much sickened and revolted by the sight of death and soon after he sees when it devastates a German soldier by saying, “The image of the soldier’s head exploding makes my stomach churn” (Boyden 88). In order to resolve his feelings and this spiritual shortage that he associates with letting the lives of other soldiers be wasted, Xavier Bird turns to spirituality and prayer, this is what keeps Xavier more centered and more stable within the comfort of his cultural roots. Throughout the entire length of this novel, Xavier never once forgets the importance of his background and upbringing in regards to his immediate situation, meaning that he remains rooted to his spiritual and cultural beliefs in spite of his foreign surroundings. Additionally to Xavier, in terms of spiritual independence, is Niska, whose experience