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Written Confession: A Navajo Woman Shares Stories of the Skinwalkers

The following written confession was submitted via email, also following the release of Episode 95: The Roof Walker.

“This happened a long time ago.  I am not fluent in English, but I do my best.

 I'm Navajo women from the Four Corners area, and I grew up as a traditional Navajo.  This means my family conducted Navajo traditional ceremonies and we had lot of  ceremonies, and it was always healing ceremony and lot of prayers.  My grandpa, my dad's father was a medicine man.

 I live west of Shiprock, NM and the mountains are 15 miles on west and south of our home.    We had no trees around our house and I would describe it desert, and only big structure 3 miles east of our home is a big Shiprock Rock.  

My parents enrolled me, my young sister and my older brother in boarding schools at Nenahnezad, NM.  We went home on weekdays, but sometimes we stayed in the dormitory.  At home we had no running water and electricity and we lived in a small 2 room house.  There were two bump beds and one big bed, and kitchen table, cabinets and wood stove in the middle of the house.  The front door is facing east and divided room in the middle of the house.  There was three windows on east, south and west side.  The middle door is blocked because my cousins and her boyfriend lived on the north side.  We lived on the south side.  

My father and brothers started building new house it was about 100 yard south of the old house.  When skinwalker came we lived in the old house. Eight of us lived in that house including my parents.  Sometimes, I stayed with my grandmother.   I don't exactly remember my age, and looking at one of my younger sister age, she was about 4 years old, so this was 1978 and I was 13 years old.

This was on a weekend, we went to bed and light were out.  I was on bottom bump bed and my 11 year old sister was on top bump.  I can hear everyone dozing off.  I could not sleep, and I got up, and my sister help me get the splinter out of my right hand.  She hold the flash light for me.  

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I hear the dogs barking.  They were chasing something and we listened,  they chased it behind the house and it jumped to the edge of the roof on south side of the house.  My bed is southwest of the room and the creature was climbing on top.  We turned off the flash light and my sister went under cover.  I slowly got up and I went across the room to wake up my parents.  I turned on the flash light, shined it in their face so they can wake up.  that did not help, and they said, it's a cat.  I'm I went back to my bed and went under the cover and listen.  By this time I heard it climbing and it was scratching the window as it climbed to the roof.  When it climbed, I can hear it breathing, and scratching the walls and windows, and when when it got on top, It sound like a person walking from south to north, round and round.  The dogs were barking and running around the house as it walked back and forth, and at one time it stopped.  He was not moving and suddenly, he   hit one of the dogs with a long 2" diameter pole.  My sister threw that pole on the roof a day before.  When the dog was hit, he was hurt.  I can hear that pole when it was thrown at the dog.  I laid in bed listening to the foot steps.  The foot steps is not a dog or a cat, it was a human, heavy person walking with two legs.  I fell asleep as I listened to the heavy steps.

The next morning, and I check the area.  There were weird foot prints, we tried to tell my parents but they just brushed it off.  No one paid attention to us.  The prints were not too clear because the ground was too hard. Since no one listens we didn't bother.  

Within four days my cousin passed away, she was 25 years old.  She is the one that lived on the north side of the house.   Before she pass on, on Sunday afternoon, she mentioned a bad headache, that was the last time I heard her talking about the pain.  In the afternoon, we went back to boarding school and by Wednesday Or Thursday my uncle came with the bad news.  She passed away after two or three day.  That was the hardest and saddest thing to take as a kid.  After she passed on, my family brought in a medicine man and he conducted a ceremony.    And he said, TWO OF YOU KNOW ABOUT IT.  Everyone looked at me and my sister.  We never repeated our story to the medicine man.  He said, "it's a man in a bear skin, and I saw he was on the roof of the house.  When it walk on the roof he was using a white powder and blew it over her.  He walked round and round and round and he blew some kind of power on everyone to put you all to a deep sleep.  He had a helper, it was a hummingbird, he did the lookout thru a peep hole.  He blew this white power on her and that is how she passed away.   Then he explained, I see lights, The light traveling toward our house.  It was like a bright flash light, not a spot light.  The medicine man says, tat is it, it is that light.  He conducted the prayers and chanted songs.  He prayed using sacred words, words I never heard.  He takes out the fire ashes and arrow heads to ward off the evil skinwalker.  After singing and praying for several hours, the light disappeared.

 At the time I did not fully understand what he meant, white powder.  Later my grandma tells me, that white powder is crushed human bone, and they get this from the graveyard.  She did not tell me much .

I asked my grandma too many questions, but sometimes, she told me, don't ask, you are not old enough to know.  My grandma always told us to close the curtains, and she said, skinwalker might be watching us close all the curtains.   Or she said, close all the curtains we don't want to see ghost. 

Another time, we had a ceremony in a hogan (one room and round house).  It was after midnight and my father was singing, and I heard the dogs barking close behind him.  I could not hear the songs, instead I heard the dogs.  My brother goes out and checked, they did not see anything. The next morning, I walked to the spot behind the hogan and  I saw a big spot on the ground, someone sat behind him and walked toward south west  The same foot prints, the one I seen before, and these prints had clear markings.  It was a human hand prints in the middle and bear claw around it.    My grandma yells at me not to follow the prints and leave it and my dad reassured me not to worry.  He said, we prayed all night and we will not let it get to us.   I am young and I wanted to know why, it keep coming only at night.  I yelled so loud to it, "why don't you come in day time and tell us what you want.  Don't hide behind that skin!

After a year the new house was finish and we moved in.  My youngest sister was about four or five years old.  Every evening I had to warm up the house.  Before we start the fire, I always take out the ashes and we took it out to a big 100 gallons barrel.  The barrel was set about 60 yard southeast of the new house.   

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One evening when the sun was setting I had to do my chores. My youngest sister was helping me.  We put the ashes in the bucket and we walked out to the big barrel. It was getting dark and I could not see too far.  When we got closer to the barrel, I saw a big bear out in front of us.  We threw the bucket on the ground and we ran back to the house.  My sister is crying and screaming, Bear! Bear!  We got inside and shut the door.  Everyone is inside, cleaning the kitchen and not one person paid attention.  My sister was crying and ran to my mother.   She had night mares, she jumped and cries, Bear Bear Bear!  I noticed the dogs barking and always chasing someone outside.  She does not remember, and she never talks bout it.    Maybe a ceremony was done for her.

Then years went by, I did not live in that house and I moved to Arizona.  My parents lived in this new house, but there was no electricity and running water.  They used the white gas light at night.  The house is expanded to two story, and three bedrooms on the top floor and one bathroom.  The kitcheN, dining room and living rooms, and one restroom are at the bottom floor.   Two entrances from the east and bottom floor has 2 large windows on west side.  

My youngest sister is born in 1987 and she was about 6 years old when she saw a skinwalker.  This was 1993, her and    My youngest my young cousin are the same age.  They hang out together everyday.  

One evening they took a bath in the bottom floor bathroom, and using a white gas lantern.  They walked out of the restroom with the towels and holding the light, turned southwest of the room and they saw a goat looking at them.  This thing was standing behind the west window and looking straight at them.  They stopped and stood looking face to face with the This creature.  The face was an old man and it was wearing a goat skin, like a hoodie over his head and it had two horns.  They screamed and threw the white gas lantern on the floor no they ran to the kitchen.  My mothers runs out to see.  My sister and cousin were frightened and explained what they saw.  

They did not close the window curtains like my grandmother said.  The curtain is closed after they saw the strange skinwalker.  

I asked my sister about what she saw, she said, it was a man in a goat skin.  He was covered with the goat skin over his head, and two horns above his head.  He face was covered with some light and dark color.  He had big eyes and it did not blink, it had a strange look in his eyes, he had human eyes.  

When I was a kid my elderly cousin told me, I know how to witch people.  He was a scariest person to be around.  My brother saw him put some kind of powder on my mother.  He was standing behind her and blew it on her.  Within one hour, she started having pain on her back.  We had to take her to IHS clinic and then to a medicine man.   

Another day, My parents sent my older brother and I to drive to town to get food.  Town is 35 miles away and on way home, we saw that old man on the road.  We picked him up and I smelled alcohol on him.  He was too drunk.  He sat on passenger side and he starts talking about how he witch people.  He was trying to show us how he used his witch craft.  My brother turned up the radio and I looked away from him.  My brother tells him, we don't want to know . He passed always when I was in high school.  

Today,  when someone says skin walker, my response to that,  "Who would still practice it".  I think it died down because skin walkers was practice by the elder Navajos and they could speak in Navajo and they know how to sing in Navajo and chant.  Today over 50% Navajos did not speak Navajo, they don't know how to sing or chant in Navajo.”