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Skinwalkers: Native American Witches

Column: Legends, Lore, Superstitions, and More



Witches were feared by many, including Europeans and famously the people of Salem, Massachusetts. Most cultures have a story or legend about witches like Mangkukulam in the Philippines and the Kalku in Chile. Even native Americans have tales of witches. More specifically, the Navajo people feared a type of witch that they called a skinwalker. In the Navajo language, they were called yee naaldlooshii.


Navajo culture describes witchcraft as both good and bad, unlike European culture. Spiritualism in Navajo culture is actually pretty important. They believed witchcraft could be used to heal but also harm.


Witchcraft and skinwalkers are a part of other Native American cultures too like the Pueblo, Apache, Ute, and Hopi.


Skinwalkers are often described as evil witches who can morph themselves to look like an animal. It’s said that skinwalkers used witchcraft for evil. People who use witchcraft and decide to become a skinwalker must kill a family member to obtain supernatural powers. They get even more powerful by wearing pelts, skulls, and the skin of animals. These powers allow the skinwalker to seemingly shapeshift into looking like animals.


Skinwalkers most often shift into the form of coyotes, wolves, dogs, and bears. However, skinwalkers can shift into more than just animals, they can shift into the form of other humans and even possess people. Skinwalkers have the ability to possess people who make eye contact with them. After a person is possessed, a skinwalker can make them say and do whatever they want. They can control a person’s thoughts and actions as well as read minds and spread diseases that result in death.

Fortunately, there is a way to tell the difference between a skinwalker and a real animal. It’s believed that when skinwalkers morph to look like animals, their eyes stay the same. This means that you can tell if an animal is a skinwalker if their eyes are very human-like.


You can also tell when a skinwalker is around. They are known for knocking on the sides of houses, making strange noises, tapping on windows, and even looking through windows.

Stories of skinwalkers are usually about a human running next to cars at a superhuman speed, coyotes with human hands and feet, or even deer that walk on their hind legs.


The Navajo people believe skinwalkers are against their culture and dislike the way they use their powers.


Today, Native Americans still pass down the stories of these witches. Some have even encountered one themselves. Skinwalker encounters have been reported in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah most often.


8 Comments


Jair Hernandez
Jair Hernandez
Dec 18, 2020

I think that learning about the origins of these things is very interesting, and teaches me about other cultures.

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I have heard about skinwalkers before but hearing about their background and origin is very interesting as well. I think creatures like this that are widespread in various cultures are very interesting although a bit creepy.

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Allen Hernandez
Allen Hernandez
Dec 17, 2020

I've heard about skinwalkers but never really payed attention to them but thankyou soo much for the good information.

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Aurylina Mendez
Aurylina Mendez
Dec 17, 2020

I have a Native American culture in my background but I have never heard about these Skinwalkers I need to talk to my grandma ASAP.

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In a lot of stories I've heard from Mexico they always bring up skinwalkers.

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