December 14, 2012
Skinwalkers: Native American Organized Crime?
Since I was a child I have heard stories of the fabled Native American group called Skinwalkers. These stories I have heard from numerous sources, including Native Americans and white people who have lived on or near reservations. I have also heard of a few urban stories where people have attributed strange activity to Skinwalkers.
For those of you who don't know, Skinwalkers are not just another term for werewolves, as you can read in a blog post I wrote a while ago. There is much speculation about the group, including many who claim it is nothing more than superstitions from the past. In fact, some researchers claim that Native American stories about Skinwalkers might have first been told in the early 20th century or late 19th century, although some Native Americans claim the stories have been told for at least a few hundred years.
Just like there is controversy over how long Skinwalker tales have been around, there is also controversy about whether or not the group is organized or comprised of disconnected individuals and small groups. Of course a similar discussion is ongoing about Satan worshipers in Europe, the United States and other parts of the world. Some activists claim there is a highly sophisticated network of devil worshipers hiding among the general populace, while many sociologists dismiss such claims as baseless.
So, too, do some Native Americans claim that Skinwalkers are much more common, especially on reservations, than most people can begin to understand. I have spoken to people in the past who claim that Skinwalkers are excellent at blending in with the rest of the residents of a reservation, where they take up positions of influence. These people also claim that anyone who crosses a Skinwalker or his agenda will become a target of the group. A victim might have things stolen from them, be run off the reservation, lose animals mysteriously or even be murdered. In fact, some claim that the Skinwalkers are more like a Native American organized crime family, like the mafia.
I have spoken with people and read accounts that claim Skinwalkers are highly racist, that they absolutely abhor white people and influence. Supposedly they target anyone who is not Native American who travels through or stays at a reservation at night. They supposedly target clergy from white churches. Supposedly the goal of Skinwalkers is to cut off every bit of "European" influence from the group, giving them greater control.
Shamans are often the target of Skinwalkers. These Walkers (some call them Spirit Walkers) often attack their victims with magic, instead of just putting on an animal skin and waging a physical attack. When a victim falls ill or otherwise suffers from an attack, they often see the shaman for help. The Skinwalkers see the shaman as the old Native American check against their activity, and so seek to intimate or even eliminate them.
Some Native Americans try to protect themselves from Skinwalkers and their dubious activities by first identifying who around them might be a Walker. Those who have immediate family members who have mysteriously died or disappeared are often suspect, since legend says a Skinwalker must murder an immediate family member to be initiated into the group. In fact, some claim that Walkers use different parts of corpses in their magical ceremonies, sometimes turning to grave-robbing to obtain the needed body parts. I have heard from some Native Americans that Skinwalkers supposedly are obsessed with death, choosing to wear clothing and apparel that features skulls and skeletons, as well as wearing dark colors constantly. Others claim you must live near Skinwalkers if you hear footsteps on your roof at night, since Walkers love to walk on rooftops in an effort to travel undetected. There is, thankfully, no Malleus Maleficarum for Skinwalkers, and thus no standard method of detection.