Skin-walkers as told by Native Americans

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Tales of skin walkers as told by native Americans are rare, because of the Navajo fear of the shapeshifter. For good reason, it is a taboo of the First Nation people to talk about the skinwalker, or write about it, or even think of it. However some of the younger generation no longer respect tribal prohibitions. Those wise men and fools thirsting for such forbidden knowledge, may now find it here.

Before pale-skinned invaders from Europe arrived in America, in some tribes, Skinwalkers were not evil. The Navajo would chose the best warriors, to spy on other tribes like the Apache, or the Hopi. At night these warriors would disguise themselves as, or transform themselves into, Coyotes, and by infiltrating a neighboring village, could learn if the enemy was planning a raid against them. Only after the Europeans overran native American land, crippling their culture, did the skinwalkers begin to wreak havoc against their own tribes.

Following is the testimony of a young Navajo man who was the victim of a skinwalker, posted anonymously in an online forum.

One night my cousin and I were at a party on the reservation. We planned a car ride to home, but the driver had too much to drink, so we had to walk. We sensed we were being watched. To avoid this uneasy feeling, we decided to take a different route across the wilderness. The moon was not full that night, but we could have crossed with our eyes closed, and it was only four miles to my grandparent's house. After we had been walking for an hour, which was about half way there, again we felt we were being observed. We noticed a dark figure behind us, too distant to recognize its features, except for the outline of its form. Then we heard it laughing.

We increased our pace, until my cousin said he could hear the skinwalker breathing, then we began to sprint. Unfortunately, the sound of its laughter continued to follow us. When that sound stopped, we raced ahead, until we were confident that we had outrun it. That is when the shapeshifter appeared in front of us, laughing. It had long, pointed ears and a pointed noise, and its eyes reflected the moonlight, as would the eyes of a dog. Just as suddenly, it vanished. We hurried forward. We did not see it again. Occasionally my cousin would recite a native prayer, in hopes of repelling it, and every time he prayed, we heard it respond with laughter, from the darkness.

The laughter came from in front of us, then from behind us, many times. In one of the moments in between, as we were steeping in our own fear, out of the darkness, materialized my grandparent's house. Their house was a traditional native home... no electricity... no running water, but there we found safety. Both of us started to cry, like much smaller children. Grandfather's face was like stone, as he listened to our story, but grandmother was nodding her head, as if she heard our story before. Then Grandfather told us of one of his own close encounters with a skinwalker. I can no longer recall his tale.

I only remember later that night, from a deep sleep, my cousin shook me awake. "What is wrong," I asked. My cousin said, "He is back!" We heard the shapeshifter, running in front of the house, to the right, to the left, and back again. I said, "Don't wake anybody else," and I inspected my grandfather's rifle. It was loaded. Before we opened the door to the outside, I waited while my cousin said his prayers... the very same prayers which had failed before. In spite of this, I asked him to pray for the household, too. When he was done, I threw open the door, and we stood there together, side by side. But the threat had fled. The night was cool, empty and quiet, and we never heard from it, ever again.

There is a man who lives alone in the mountains, who is proud of the fact, that his heritage is one hundred percent Navajo. For the fool, or the wise man, he has one piece of advice for those who wish to bait and attract a shapeshifter. Wait until nightfall, rub ashes on your face, and then speak about the creature, out loud. The skinwalker will find you.

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