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Skinwalkers: Origins, Powers & Encounters
Episode Summary & Notes
Before the famous Skinwalker Ranch, the Ute had claimed Skinwalkers were a curse put on them by the Navajo. But why? In our first installment of our ‘Slow Series’ building up to a deep dive into Skinwalker Ranch, we explore the origins, history, and reality of the Skinwalker.
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Long Walk Tears of the Navajo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IehXUWJEEdA
SKINWALKER CSI – Law Enforcement and the Paranormal – Jonathan Dover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuweWp3_Y7s&list=PLrWe5dnDEeTl21ilTVGQe-mWiakOeW0XF
Order A Copy of Skinwalker Shards Linger: https://www.amazon.com/Skinwalker-Shards-Linger-Hoss-Lors/dp/1492156906/
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You find yourself somewhere in the American South West, traveling down a desert road late one night, counting the gaps between groups of lights in the distance and your destination.
You haven’t seen the headlights of a car in a while, and even though your speeding, it’s a boring drive, not much to see but the faint glow of the moonlight leaving shadows and shapes sleeping in the dust of the vast open desert.
But as you make your way along something begins to stick out, standing next to the side of the road, just ahead.
It looks like a man, you slow down just a little as you pass, he’s covered in a cracked white paint.
Confused as to why he’s out there, but sure as hell not stopping to give him a ride you keep going.
The thought of how weird of a sight that was comes back to you and you glance into the rearview mirror only to realize there is a massive wolf with glowing red eyes running just behind your car.
Panicking, you hit the gas, you’re already going 65 miles per hour but it’s right there, catching up. You make it up to 70, 75, then 80 before finally when you look back you see it loosing ground.
To say this story is rare would be a lie.
This week, we’re covering the history, and the reality, of the Skinwalker
Hello everyone and welcome to episode 16 of the Black Cat Report!
My name is Gil,
And with me,
the Fantastic Joey,
And the ferocious Betsabe,
Y’all It is a very special week for us here as we just recently passed 1,000 downloads of the show.
A small milestone for some, but a huge success for us.
So we wanna give a major shout out to all of you, our listeners, for making this show a success. Y’all are absolutely awesome and we love you!
Now, before we dig in to the story of the Skinwalker there are a few points I’d like to make.
1st, this will be a part of a slow series, a theme if you will, leading up to a deep dive into skinwalker ranch. Not quite part 1, but not quite disconnected.
2nd, and most importantly, Respect needs to be given to the Navajo.
To understand Skinwalkers, their significance in Navajo culture, what they are and why they relate to Skinwalker Ranch you must understand the tragic history, and incredible strength of the Navajo.
Further, this is not meant to be the final word, just the best info we’ve be able to find.
When referencing values, views and narrative, We sought to find and quote Navajo and other Native Voices.
When referencing experiences and encounters we’ve sought out to only include stories that fit within our best understanding Navajo views.
We do not represent Navajo culture nor are claiming to. We are just covering research we’ve done and have tried our best to respectfully present it here.
So begin todays story, we’ll be starting with a brief lead up to what is known as The Long Walk
After fighting with the Spanish to keep their homeland in the now the American Southwest, the Navijo then had to fight back the Mexicans.
Their were constant slave riads being carried out against the Navajo. Children being gathered up and stolen by the 100s and sent off to be forced into a life of slavery.
As time went on, Manifest Destiny, the white american belief that the country was chosen by God to stretch across the continent soon brought Americans to the doorstep of the Navajos Native land.
After winning the Mexican-American war, the lands the Navajo had been living on for 1,000s of years, long before recorded history were considered up for grabs.
This leads us to a very important moment, it was around the late 1840’s and early 1850’s that America began building military forts in and around Navajo Territory. This was also around the time that, people looking at the geology of the area, started the rumor that their might be gold on the Navajos land, and like every other time in American history, this rumor took off like wildfire.
I’m skipping over a lot of treaties and events and want to make a point here that this time period is in fact incredibly complex and I highly recommend people look into it and learn.
Americans began flooding into the area, and naturally, the Navajo, responded by fighting for their homes and their way of life. Treaties were written out and signed, then broken over and over again. Each time broken by the Americans, and each time chipping away at Native Territory.
This leads us to the 1860’s, when President Lincoln ordered Major General James H. Carleton to forcefully move the Navajo to Bosque Redondo. The idea, considered a peaceful solution at the time, was to “civilize” and “Christianize’ the Navajo & Apache by forcing them to live in a 40 square mile area, and make them into farmers.
It should be noted here that the Navajo we’re already incredibly talented farmers with massive peach orchards and corn fields spanning across their territory and thriving in the desert. And after the introduction of sheep by the Spanish, they kicked ass at raising them too, fully incorporating them into their lives and culture. Again, they had been living in the region for 10’s of thousands of years, and by their own creation story, that land is where they 1st set foot on earth. They didn’t need any help, the Americans just wanted them out of their way.
But anyways, back to Abraham Lincoln. Once his order was passed down, it reached the famous douchebag, Kit Carson who proceeded, again, under direct orders, to lead a scorched earth campaign against the Navajo.
You see, more than just stunning and beautiful, the Cannons that the Navajo lived it worked as massive, unscalable walls that protected large portions of their territory. To get to them, or, more so, to get them to comply, Carson began cutting off water sources, making raids into the territory and burning their crops, slaughtering their sheep, destroying 100’s of year old peach orchards. Just straight up comitting acts of state sponsored terrorism in an effort to literally weaken the Navajo into compliance.
During all of this, the long-standing enemies of the Navajo, a name that should stand out to fans of Skinwalker Ranch, the Ute, provided scouts to Kit Carson. Helping him to hunt down Navajo that were fleeing the destruction and forced relocations.
This begins with The Long Walk.
Roughly 8,500 people, men, women, children, the elderly, the pregnant, it didn’t matter, were forced to walk between 300 to 450 miles, through the brutal winters, and scorching summers of the southwest.
Slowing down often meant you were shot and killed, if you were a woman of any age, you were subject to whatever pleasure the american soldiers wanted from you.
To quote one source:
“Navajo (Diné) oral history tells the stories of those who lived through the terror at the hands of Carson’s men on the Long Walk: they showed no regard for women, children, or families. When the people became exhausted, the soldiers became harsh, sometimes shooting prisoners rather than allowing the Navajo (Diné) to rest.”
“These soldiers do not have any regard for the women folks. They took unto themselves for wives somebody else’s wife, and many times the Navajo man whose wife was being taken tried to ward off the soldiers, but immediately he was shot and killed and they took his wife.” – John Daw, testimony before the Land Claims Commission, 1951,
The brutality of Carson and the soldiers cannot be overstated. This forced march came at the end of years of systemic starvation, fleeing, desperately trying to survive. And now this.
Once the Navajo reached Bosque Redondo
The conditions there speak clearly for themselves. While letters amongst the American military and government spoke of grad dreams of indoctrination, treating people nicely, with respect, and so on the reality of the next 4 years was could give the devil lessons on how to run hell. And, as we’ll soon get to, it does.
At the Bosque Redondo, armed soldiers stood to watch as the Navajo and Apache were starving to death. The lands they were expected to farm were absolutely worthless; the water, the only source of water available, was alkaline. Meaning drinking it made you sick, leaving people deathly ill. The shelter was nearly non-existent and, in the intentionally weakened, sickened state, almost impossible to build.
While sometimes referred to as an internment camp, this was, by no exaggeration of the term, an open-air concentration camp. And before anyone says anything about this being a gross exaggeration, I would like to refer you to Hitler and the architects behind the holocaust, who 80 years later would directly say Bosque Redondo was a model and inspiration for the design of their camps.
The Utes provided scouts to hunt down Navajos for Kit Carson.
They had long been enemies.
When the Navajo left, they left a curse on the land.
The Treaty of 1868:
This leads us the the importance of the treaty of 1868
After all this pain, war and suffering, and 4 years at Bosque Redondo the Navajo we’re able to negotiate a Treaty allowing them to return back to their homeland. (It’s important to note that this is after no gold was found in their lands)
This also leads us to 1878’
After a series of events and suspicions, In 1878, someone found a collection of witch relics wrapped in a copy of the treaty of 1868 and buried in the belly of a dead man.
Besides the morbid symbolism of this, to the Navajo, it was a clear threat, a curse made upon them. Just 10 years after finally finding some semblance of peace, some sense of a hope for stability, after 100’s of years of war, systemic starvation, kidnappings, slavery, surviving the nightmare of the concentration camp at Bosque Redondo, someone, a Navajo Witch, was desieiring more pain and suffering upon the Navajo people.
This discovery lead to the now notorious Navajo Witch Purge of 1878 where upwards of 40 people accused of being witches were killed.
While before this moment, the existence of Skinwalkers, AKA Navajo Witches is widely reported as being known, understood, and to some extent accepted as a fact of life before this moment. The significance of the 1878 Witch Purge stands out in that it is one of the earliest well documented events for us as outsiders, to reference and develop a timeline of sentiment, knowledge and social scrutiny around Skinwalkers.
In other words, this was an early turning point we can, again, as outsiders, point to as the Birth of the Modern Skinwalker.
Now with a little bit of the history and context understood, let’s dive in to what a Skinwalker is, and isn’t.
Reality of a Skinwalker:
Before anything, it needs to be stated a Skinwalker is evil.
As we’ll soon see, there is no such thing as a good Skinwalker. Any other view of them is a misconception that denies the conclusions of a culture that has been dealing with them for 1,000s of years.
Their creation, methodology, practices, and motivations stem from selfishness, greed, jealousy, and hatred. Their powers focus on bringing pain, death, intimidation and sickness to the world, always at the expense of those around them.
While very little is known to the general public about the ritualistic process of becoming a Skinwalker, one step seems to be acknowledged again and again. In order to complete the ceremony, you must kill a close family member that you love.
Motivations to become a Skinwalker vary in reasons just as widely as any other decision people make. Power over the community, revenge against someone or a group of people you feel have wronged you, family tradition, and in some cases, coercion. There is said to be a terrifying practice of sometimes forcing small children who have come across a ceremony to make a choice. Telling them, kill one of your bothers or sisters and become one of us, or, we’ll kill you.
Once someone becomes a Skinwalker they change, their behavior, personality, everything. Which is why getting someone while they’re young seems to be a somewhat common practice. They can be raised in the world of secrecy and the transformation can happen before the shift in their personality, or the required sacrifice of a loved one, raises alarms.
To add to this, the powers acquired when one becomes a Skinwalker seem to replace a part within them. Call it their soul, their life force, what have you, but it is widely understood that leaving the path of being a Skinwalker means death, essentially locking you into the practice, rituals, and motivations to maintain secrecy.
It is said that while a Skinwalker does not loose control of themselves, going on wild rampages like that of a werewolf, they will die if they do not kill, if they do not make a habit of bringing upon pain and suffering. In other words, whatever deal they make, when they make it, requires them to regularly bring forth it’s imbalance into the world, to maintain a flow of it’s influence.
Far past symbols of curses, a Skinwalker, who can be a man or a woman, employes a variety of skills and techniques to compliment their dark powers. From poisonous corps powder stored in bones taken from a graveyard, to methods of breaking into your mind and stealing your self-control, when you are targeted by a Skinwalker, your only hope is to seek help from someone versed in healing that can fight for you beyond this physical plane. Specifically, a Navajo Medicine Man.
As for process and abilities, we’ll work through what is widely known and reported before acknowledging what I would consider to be safe assumptions.
What we know:
Now to speak to the process, as with any practice, some people are more talented or more trained. Meaning some Skinwalkers are able to transform completely, while others, only partially. Leading to stories of Wolf-Like Men being associated with them, as well as tales of Skinwalkers completely taking the shape of other humans.
At some point before the transformation, the Skinwalker will coat themselves from head to toe, their hair and all, with a thick, substance that eventually dries and looks like cracked white paint.
This is assumed because of cases where a strange or threatening animal has been shot, only to be approached and to everyone’s horror, found to be a human, wearing an animal skin and covered in a strange white substance.
When ready to transform, through ceremony and chants, a skinwalker dawns the pelt of the animal they would like to become. Most commonly this is a wolf, coyote, owl or crow, but in reality it can be anything, any animal whose abilities they desire to take on and control. They see everything turn red, and, once transformed, possess incredible speed and resilience.
Based on reports, this transformation can happen incredibly fast, we’re talking seconds.
Now, when they transform, it is said that the animal will have the eyes of a human, and when they are human, the eyes of an animal.
Along with the ability to shapeshift,
They can read your thoughts.
When locking eyes with a Skinwalker, in animal, or human form, they are said to be able to hear what you are thinking, and in some cases, take control of you.
They can attack you in your sleep. Manifesting dark visions of your own death while you are trapped in your dreams and literally dying in front of people who are awake around you.
They can use footprints, hair, and personal possessions, anything of close meaning or of your body to curse you into a cycle of tragedy and bad luck.
They can project their consciousness and image, they have the power to produce the literal manifestation of themselves and appear wherever they desire in order to stalk and torment their target.
And finally, they know when they are being spoken of. It is widely acknowledged that to speak of them is to draw their attention and to put yourself at risk of becoming a target.
While it’s nearly impossible to know if someone around you is a Skinwalker, thus, making speaking of them in publicly very risky, their are also countless tales that add up to more than practicing simple caution or social paranoia.
People attempting to report on Skinwalkers, or speak about them have faced odd occurrences, direct consequences, and visits from Skinwalkers. In short, to talk about them, is to risk become a target. This is widely understood in Navajo culture and also one of the reasons why you shouldn’t be a dick and ask anyone, friend, family, or stranger whose Navajo to talk to you about them.
Even if it wasn’t putting a target on their heads please be considerate to the complexity of being an individual in a world of labels, values and beautiful differences.
Now with all of that understood, lets dig into some of the stories.
From the Book: Skinwalker Shards Linger
Hoss Lors, a morman living with his Navajo wife, Mary on or near various areas of the massive Navajo Nation which spans over 27,000 square miles in the American South West, have both had encounters as well as attempts on their lives by skinwalkers.
On a cold winter evening in 2013, Hoss and his dog, also named Hoss, we’re heading out to feed their horses on the ranch.
Part way to there, the dog, Hoss, lets off a warning bark and makes a dash back towards the house, where Mary was inside resting.
Hoss, the human turns around and heads back to see what all the ruckus is about. As he approached the house he realizes the door is wide open. Panicked he begins looking around, making his way to the bedroom his and Mary’s.
She was there, writhing in pain and groaning with a fine white dust coating her face. Their dog, Hoss, with a scared look, quietly sitting near her feet.
As Hoss approached her he heard the distinctive sound of claws scratching across the hardwood floor in their house before one of the doors opened and slammed shut.
Realizing what this was he ran and grabbed hot water and a wash cloth and began desperately trying to get the dust off of her face.
It was corpse-powder, a complex mixture made from the bones and skin of a corpse then laced with strong psychoactive herbs. One of the Skinwalkers favorite poisons. Considered lucky if you only become deathly ill, inhaling just a small amount is more than enough to kill you.
Hoss stayed up all night, giving Mary medicine they had on hand from the last attack, praying non-stop and burning ceder.
Morning came and she partially snapped out of the dreamlike state she had been stuck in log enough to ask for water. It was at this moment they both heard something large jump down from the wood pile next to their house, knocking it over and running away.
Mary, sipping some water explained how she had been stuck in a dreamlike space, desperately trying to come back.
She would end up sleeping through most of the day until finally Hoss was able to bring her to the Medicine Man they’d gone to before.
After another long night, she was finally brought back to herself, and this world, by the next morning.
In another story from the Book Skinwalker Shard Linger, by Hoss Lors,
Hoss, Mary, and her sister are returning to the ranch in the late evening after picking up a new horse.
While making there way down the long driveway Mary and her sister scream. Theres a Skinwalker standing just ahead, but at the same moment they notice it, Hoss began to buckle in nauseating pain.
It must have ran off quick because they made it to their house with no incident.
Before long Hoss went to bed, trying to sleep off the sick feeling that was creeping up on him.
Around 3:30 in the morning he woke up and began experiencing extreme diarrhea and vomiting. After dealing with that he laid down on the couch and proceeded to fall into an out of body experience.
He watched as things, creatures or entities he couldn’t describe began entering and trying to tare at his soul.
Voices kept entering his head saying over and over, this is not your place, not your home, not where you are supposed to be.
By this point, Mary was awake and saw the state he was in. She began the process of giving him Bitter Medicine, burning cedar and his medicine pouch.
He snapped back to reality, and saw a large snake looking at him through the livingroom window.
It hissed the name of one of his neighbors before slowly bending down and crawling away. Shortly after, in the same direction the snake left, the dogs and horses began to howl and freak out across the the ranch.
It was a pretty clear message, the neighbor had employed a Skinwalker to attack him.
The next day, before becoming ill himself and having to leave, a medicine man would come to the ranch and give hoss instructions on removing what the Skinwalker had put in him.
In a story often told by Retired Navajo Ranger, Jonathan Redbird Dover,
A man and his wife came home one evening to find a coyote trying to get into his sheep corral.
Without much hesitation he pull out his .22 rifle from the truck and shoots it.
It yelps, and proceeds to drag itself by it’s front legs over into the nearby tumble weeds.
The man walks over, wanting to get rid of the nuisance but not wanting to have it suffer, grabs on to the coyotes back legs and starts to pull it out.
As he does, the legs turn human in his hands.
He drops them and steps back,
A skinny, injured man completely covered in a white paint laid on the ground in front of him.
Looking over at his wife, he asks what they should do. Frankly, who the fuck is going to believe this.
They decide to call the police and an ambulance.
This is where the reality of people in present-day dealing with Skinwalkers shows.
The police arrive first, see the man on the ground, still alive and say quote, “we don’t want anything to do with this”. They then sit far away in their cars as everyone waits for the ambulance to show.
When it does finally arrive, the skinwalker is loaded up and taken to the hospital. Once there, the Navajo staff begins to freak out, leaving only the white doctors to do any work on the Skinwalker. They save him.
By this point, the husband who had shot him and the wife reach out to the Navajo Rangers, asking for advice on what to do. They are terrified of the Skinwalker seeking revenge.
Jonathan Dover informs them that in the Navajo tradition, one of the best ways to deal with the threat of a Skinwalker is to go directly to it’s house and tell them you know it’s them.
If you do this, they will drop dead in 3 days.
The family seemed happy with this knowledge, thanked him, and left.