Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Skinwalker Tales, Part 7

I asked the members of the New Mexico City-Data Forum what they knew of stories and beliefs surrounding Skinwalkers. Here are some of their responses, minimally edited for clarity:

1. I've heard a few stories that involve skinwalkers between Gallup and Shiprock; it is scary driving through the rez [reservation] at night knowing what goes on.

I used to live in Farmington and worked with a lot of Navajo women, they tried to teach me a lot about their culture and many of them have known someone that has encountered a skinwalker or died from one.I was told that they take the skin of an animal and wear it and they are basically witches, they kill you by making you sick or by another animal or snake bite. They can appear out of nowhere and run at fast speeds like an animal.

2. My uncle works with a Navajo man who encountered a skinwalker. The guy said he was coming from Gallup late at night. And he was about to fall asleep at the wheel, when he stopped on the side of the road to try and wake himself up. Right when he stepped out of the car, he saw something gliding across the tree tops like in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He said he was scared stiff, then the skinwalker stopped and was just sitting atop the trees. He looked at the skinwalker and saw an old lady with a painted face. He said he doesn't know how he got home. Plus there are many stories of skinwalkers chasing cars. That's why I don't like driving from Gallup late at night.

3. The legends and stories I've heard growing up in NM, adds that it's dangerous/deadly to look a skinwalker in the eye. There are many stories of truck drivers trucking down the highway only to look out their side window and see a skinwalker racing along side them. I've also heard from a Navajo police officer that on two occasions he saw an animal/person and when he looked again it was a person/animal. One was in a rural area, but the other was right in the middle of Albuquerque.

Oh and also, the Northern NM Spanish (old land grant families), have similar beliefs in that one type of their witches (I believe there are 3 types, and this one is considered very evil and dangerous) have shape shifting abilities, mainly in the form of ravens and owls. There are particular roads and passes where one is more likely to run into one of these people/creatures late at night.

4. Skinwalkers are also talked about amongst the Ute Mountain Utes and Southern Utes. A couple of friends from the Southern Ute tribe and I talked about skinwalkers and they were telling me weird stories they have had driving on the rez. But they also told me, people outside of Native American descent have nothing to worry about, skinwalkers only mess with fellow Natives.

5. I've been in the Navajo Nation many times, day and night. Nothing untoward. A certain amount of luck, but I generally wasn't looking for anything like this. If Native Americans are more susceptible it is possibly because they have usually been raised to believe in such things as a matter of fact. If expecting something, sometimes you can find it. Something like opening a door; they can't necessarily pass through but if you do better be prepared for what is on the other side.

Anyone, of any persuasion, spending some time alone in the wilds of the rez, or at a place such as
Hovenweep National Monument in the dark of night might be persuaded of any number of things.

6. I have one more story. This person went hunting for deer early in the morning, before the sky went blue. This guy was sitting next to a tree with his camouflage on. He had a high powered rifle with a scope. While he was looking for deer, he spotted something running his way. This guy said he was going to shoot it, but he didn't. He was scared and just sat there. This thing was coming closer to him and he noticed the thing was running on all four limbs. He decided to stay there and not run. This thing came running about 10 yards from him. He saw an old man covered with animal skin and painted face, running at least twenty miles an hour. He watched this skinwalker run through a 2 mile open field within under two minutes. He got scared and ran towards his truck. He said he never looked into his rearview.

7. IT IS SCARY!!! Ok, I have another story. This recently happened about two months ago. This family was coming from the casino late at night. They were somewhere near Pine Hill when two skinwalkers came out of nowhere. One skinwalker ran back into the forest and the other one started running by their side. They sped up and eventually outran the skinwalker. About a couple of weeks after the incident one of the persons died. It sounds exciting, but it's not. There are strange things that happen on the rez.

8. I'm the kind of person who doesn't have weird experiences with ghosts and the like, but one time when I was a teenager and boy scout we were staying at the Navajo boarding school in Fort Wingate (near Gallup). It was in December and sometime in the evening we looked out the windows in the wing of the building we were staying at and saw that it was snowing. Throughout the rest of the evening we would look out the window to see if it was still snowing while we played. One of these times I looked out and saw a person walking out in the snow. I told my friends and we all quickly got flashlights and shined at the person. From what I could see, it looked like a older Navajo man very well bundled up and walking along the side of our building. As he got close to our window, we all turned our flashlights off and hid so he wouldn't see us. When we looked out the window (assuming he would have passed by then) there was nobody outside. We then ran outside and saw footprints in the snow that suddenly stopped. I've never been able to come up with any explanation other than he just disappeared.I don't doubt the existence of a lot of things that are reported to happen on the rez and I love hearing skinwalker stories. Keep them coming.

9. I am not really familiar with this legend as I'm not Navajo, but strangely enough a lot of the things that I read from that article basically made a light bulb go off in my head... And to those of you who are going out hunting for ghosts and such on reservations.....don't mess with what you don't know, sure you may not believe in some of the stories it doesn't mean there aren't things out there that you don't understand. For example, the San Jacinto Mountains where my tribe is located in Southern California, has plenty of stories of hikers that climbed Tahquitz Mountain and never returned and their bodies are found in strange positions (such as just sitting on a rock, dead). Anyone from my tribe knows not to go up those mountains since an evil Shaman named Tahquitz lives there and is known to eat souls of tribal members (and maybe a hiker or two). I know some of you don't believe in this stuff (though of course it seems a lot of you are willing to as well) but too many stories have been told to me and too many things have happened to make me believe that things we don't really understand exist.

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