The Windigo is a flesh-eating, wintry demon with a man buried deep inside of it. In some Chippewa stories, a young girl vanquishes this monster by forcing boiling lard down its throat, thereby releasing the human at the core of ice.
Erdrich continues with a brief description of the Windigo, the poem's title figure. To paraphrase, the Windigo is an all-around stuff-of-nightmares cannibal ice demon on steroids that will be seeing you in your nightmares—decidedly not chill.
And what's that bit about the young girl? Might that aspect of the story play out in this poem? We'll have to read on to find out.
Overall, this brief introduction offers us important context for our reading, grounding the poem in an established indigenous American storytelling tradition. Now on to the poem itself…