Navajo Skinwalker Legend: Origins, Beliefs, and Modern Interpretations

The Navajo skinwalker legend is one of the more complex and terrifying stories, steeped in mystery and evil intent.

Many Navajos believe firmly in the existence of skinwalkers and refuse to discuss them publicly for fear of retribution. They believe skinwalkers walk freely among the tribe and secretly transform under the cover of night.

The term yee naaldooshii literally translates to “with it, he goes on all fours.” According to Navajo legend, a skinwalker is a medicine man or witch who has attained the highest level of priesthood in the tribe, but chose to use his or her power for evil by taking the form of an animal to inflict pain and suffering on others.

To become a skinwalker requires the most evil of deeds, the killing of a close family member. They literally become humans who have acquired immense supernatural power, including the ability to transform into animals and other people.

According to the Navajo skinwalker legend, these evil witches are typically seen in the form of a coyote, owl, fox, wolf or crow – although they do have the ability to turn into any animal they choose.

Because it is believed that skinwalkers wear the skins of the animals they transform into, it is considered taboo to wear the pelt of any animal. In fact, the Navajo are only known to wear two hides, sheepskin and buckskin, both of which are only used for ceremonial purposes.

Those who have talked of their encounters with these evil beings describe a number of ways in which a skinwalker will try to inflict harm. Some describe hearing knocks on the window or banging on the walls.

Others have spotted an animal-like figure peering in through a window. According to Navajo skinwalker legend, they are seldom caught. Those who do track a skinwalker and learn of their true identity must pronounce the name of the evil one in full. Once this happens, the skinwalker will get sick or die for the wrongs they have inflicted against others.

Origins of the Legend

The Navajo Skinwalker Legend is a centuries-old tale that has been passed down through generations of the Navajo people. The origins of the legend are shrouded in mystery, but it is believed to have originated from the Navajo witches or “Yee Naaldlooshii”. These witches were said to have the ability to transform into animals and cause harm to others.

The Skinwalker legend is also said to have been influenced by the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. The Spanish brought with them horses, which the Navajo had never seen before. The Navajo believed that the Spanish were sorcerers who had the ability to transform into horses, which added to the fear and mystery surrounding the Skinwalker legend.

There are also stories of Skinwalkers being created when a person breaks a cultural taboo. For example, if a person kills a close family member, they may become a Skinwalker as punishment. It is believed that the Skinwalker gains their powers by performing a ritual that involves killing a close family member.

Characteristics of Skinwalkers

Skinwalkers are said to be shape-shifting witches who have the ability to transform themselves into animals. They are believed to be able to take on the form of any animal, but the most commonly reported forms are coyotes, wolves, bears, and birds.

It is said that skinwalkers can only transform themselves into an animal after they have killed it. They are also believed to have the ability to control the minds of animals, making them do their bidding.

According to Navajo legend, skinwalkers are able to run incredibly fast, even faster than a car. They are also said to have glowing eyes, which are often described as being yellow or red in color.

Many people believe that skinwalkers are able to cause harm to others through the use of black magic. They are said to be able to curse people, causing them to become sick or even die. It is believed that they can also enter people’s homes without being detected, and that they can even manipulate people’s thoughts and emotions.

Despite their fearsome reputation, skinwalkers are said to be vulnerable to certain things. For example, they are said to be afraid of the color white, which is why many Navajo people will wear white clothing or hang white sheets outside their homes as a form of protection. They are also said to be vulnerable to weapons made from silver or iron.

Encounters with Skinwalkers

Many people have claimed to have encountered skinwalkers and have shared their stories over the years. These encounters are often described as terrifying and unforgettable experiences. Here are a few examples:

Encounter 1: A woman was driving home late at night when she saw a large, dark figure standing on the side of the road. As she got closer, the figure turned to face her and she saw that it had the body of a man but the head of a wolf. The creature started running towards her car, and the woman quickly drove away. She later found out that this was a common sighting in the area and that the creature was believed to be a skinwalker.

Encounter 2: A group of friends were camping in the desert when they heard strange noises outside their tent. When they looked outside, they saw a figure standing in the distance. As they watched, the figure started moving closer and closer to their campsite. They soon realized that it was not a human, but a creature with the body of a coyote and the eyes of a person. The group quickly packed up and left the area.

Encounter 3: A man was out hunting when he saw a deer in the distance. As he aimed his gun, the deer suddenly stood up on two legs and started walking towards him. The man realized that this was not a normal deer, but a skinwalker in disguise. He quickly ran away and never returned to that area again.

These encounters, along with many others, have left people fearful and fascinated by the legend of the Navajo skinwalker. While there is no scientific evidence to support the existence of these creatures, the stories continue to be passed down from generation to generation.

The Role of Skinwalkers in Navajo Culture

Skinwalkers are considered to be one of the most feared entities in Navajo culture. They are believed to be individuals who have gained the ability to transform into animals by performing a taboo act, such as killing a family member. In Navajo culture, the act of killing a family member is considered to be one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed, and is believed to result in the loss of one’s humanity.

It is believed that skinwalkers use their ability to transform into animals to harm others, either through physical attacks or by cursing them. Navajo people are taught to avoid talking about skinwalkers, as it is believed that even speaking their name can attract their attention.

Despite their fearsome reputation, skinwalkers are not considered to be entirely evil in Navajo culture. Some Navajo believe that skinwalkers can be used for good, such as in healing ceremonies. However, this belief is not widely held, and most Navajo view skinwalkers as a dangerous and malevolent force.

Controversies and Misconceptions

Despite the popularity of the Navajo Skinwalker legend, there are several controversies and misconceptions surrounding it. One of the main controversies is the authenticity of the stories. Some people believe that the stories are just myths and legends, while others firmly believe that they are true.

Another misconception is that Skinwalkers are evil beings. In Navajo culture, Skinwalkers are not necessarily evil, but they are considered to be powerful and dangerous. They are believed to have the ability to transform into animals and possess supernatural powers.

There is also a misconception that Skinwalkers are only found in Navajo culture. However, similar legends exist in other cultures, such as the werewolf in European folklore and the were-jaguar in South American folklore.

Finally, there is controversy surrounding the use of the term “Skinwalker” itself. Some Navajo people believe that the term is disrespectful and should not be used by outsiders. They prefer to use the Navajo term “yee naaldooshii” instead.


Navajo Skinwalker Legend is a popular topic of discussion among paranormal enthusiasts. The Skinwalker is a shape-shifting creature in Navajo folklore that is said to have the ability to transform into any animal it desires. The creature is believed to be a witch who has gained supernatural powers by breaking a cultural taboo.

According to Navajo tradition, the Skinwalker is a malevolent being that is feared by many. It is said to have the ability to possess people and animals, causing them to act in strange and unpredictable ways. The creature is also believed to have the power to control the weather and cause natural disasters.

Despite the fear and superstition surrounding the Skinwalker, many people are fascinated by the legend and seek to learn more about it. Some believe that the creature is real and continue to search for evidence of its existence, while others view it as a cultural symbol that represents the Navajo people’s connection to the natural world. Regardless of one’s beliefs, the Navajo Skinwalker Legend remains a compelling and mysterious topic that continues to capture the imagination of many.