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Native American Werewolves

September 6th, 2009 § 65

WolfMaidenNative Americans have incredibly profound and fascinating beliefs, many of them involving wolves. To several tribes (past and present), the wolf itself is known as a protective spirit or totem. They view the wolf as a wise fellow hunter to be respected and admired.

In spite of what some Twilight fans think, Stephenie Meyer wasn’t the one that came up with Native American werewolves, no, I’m afraid that is a very old belief that many tribes have. Since Twilight is causing a stir of interest in Native American lore and beliefs -especially with the second movie, New Moon coming out soon which has much more of Jacob Black and the rest of the wolves involved- we’ll shed some light on the subject.

Quite a few Native American tribes are familiar with the idea of a man transforming from man to beast. The belief is known in many tribes including the Mohawk (whose territories once covered upstate New York to southern Quebec) where those that could shift were known as limmikin (sometimes yenaloosi) but it is the Novajo tribe that is best known for its shifter beliefs. These shifters are called skinwalkers, the Navajo word for such people is yeenadlooshi, which means “he goes on all fours.”

According to Navajo tradition skinwalkers will even look physically different from normal people – the main difference being their eyes, which are large and glowing, even in daylight. It is thought that if someone looks a skinwalker in the eyes they can absorb a person and “steal their skin.” So it goes without saying that someone should avoid looking anyone suspected of being a skinwalker in the eyes. They were also believed to have no genitals and their skin was supposedly rock hard, making it impervious to axes and arrows.

In some versions of the tradition the skinwalker’s tongue would be black, proof that their soul was poison. It was also believed that becoming a skinwalker was caused by dark forces, a person that becomes one was believed to have done something immoral to attract that darkness. Also, a skinwalker didn’t take just one form, they took many, such as owls, crows, coyotes, but one of the most common forms was wolf. While in animal form they lost all trace of humanity, the beast and animal instincts took over, making them vicious and unpredictable. This was only one version though, another is that while in animal form they were actually much more intelligent. They were also able to read minds and could lure people out of their homes and into the woods by imitating the voices and cries of loved ones.

Then there are the Hopi Indian traditions where shapeshifting is brought on by a special ceremony known as Ya-Ya. The details on this ceremony are extremely secret and well-protected but it is thought to involve wearing the skin of the animal one wishes to become.

And there you have it, one small look into the very expansive collection of Native American traditions and beliefs.

- Moonlight

About the Author

One of the writers for werewolves.com, as well as vampires.com.

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65 Responses to Native American Werewolves

  1. Suzi says:

    this has alot info in it

  2. Shelley says:

    my great grandmother told my dad that she saw her husband shapeshift into a wolf….i think he was a cherokee skin-walker….but i found this very interesting….

    • armon says:

      hey if u are only part cherokee do you still have a chance of being a skinwalker my eyes are always changing colers and what not i just really wanna know so do i

  3. Thomas says:

    This is somewhat true. I am fully Native American from Dine (Navajo) and Lakota (Sioux).
    And there are NOT only like two or three that believe this. There is actually a good amount of us that believe this. And back in the day we did not look at being a skinwalker as a bad thing. It was actually a good thing. No rock-hard skin, or black tongue. I don’t know where you got that from, but it’s wrong.
    Somewhat of your stuff is correct though.

    • moonlight says:

      The information was taken from various books on the topic. There were countless Native American tribes and they all had their own myths and stories, so there isn’t one idea. Just because one tribe had a certain view on a topic doesn’t mean they all did. Therefore nothing is this post is wrong, some tribes believed it and some didn’t.

    • BrenDuh says:

      dude, i’m dine too. i think the whole skinwalker talk is crazy. i mean, i believe in it and all but the way i grew up, skinwalkers aren’t a good topic to be talked about. i find it very interesting though…i’d like to learn more about stuff like that but i dunno if it’s like against a tradition or anything. my family down in Az don’t talk much about it. sucks. i’m curious.

  4. Rontu says:

    I am a Cherokee but, I still do Native activity with my cle-at clan tryouts! I believe when somewaht of your speech is true and the other is false! I mustn’t believe that this is true rather im only 11 years old but my rank is an eagle and the higher you go, you get a new sign on your arm called a flentograph? It isn’t made from the harmful substences the Americans’ produce today it is made of safe ink made from natural berries. I am the fastest runner in the clan, there’s alot of people in this clan and my clan leader does believe that you could shapeshift! You may only do this when your the highest rank! A wolf!

  5. Pingback: Magical Transformation | Werewolves

  6. scottieann says:

    lycanthropy or lycan. is all over the world. So may different beliefs in so many places. I myself< lakota..crow..cheyenne. as well as irish,scotts,and german. Each race has its beliefs. So no matter if your a skinwalker or a lycan We all at here to help each other.. me.. i wouldnt turn away a werewolf or human. If we all would get along, and see whats in the heart.. then there would be any hate, and people saying” well they have black tongues.. and glowing eyes” I myself was told when i get angry my eyes glowed, widened, and pupils get large. But doesnt everyones??

    • Ezimma says:

      Hi i am very curious to these believes ..i am do have some native american in me but i do not know of what tribe…but thats not the issue..please i need to know as much as you would tell me about the skinwalkers…..please!

    • Atticus says:

      Well, I’m no Dine, but from my research, one of the steps involves killing your kin. Might want to rethink that decision.

      • moonlight says:

        Mind sharing your sources? :)

        • jacob white says:

          im almost half southern cherokee and i was told that im from the red tail tribe and my great grand dad was a spirit worrier and it was passes down do to me. and i was told as wqell that im a wolf. and iv grown to understand the feelings and the power behind it all. and i to know about the skinwalkers.

          • aaron says:

            You are powhatan and Cherokee I am also we I am one of the last true decendant of pocanhantas I know we still have people out there put it is nice to still here there are still my people out there and on the subject of the shifting and skinwalkers my dad has always told it goes based of your clan and what there sign is he is a dreamer. We are from the wolf clan ourselves.

  7. Little Seahorse says:

    I am Cherokee, Amonsoquath Tribe, Powhatan Clan……I have been told a few stories of the skin walkers and belive that they do exist. My great grandparents were of the white skinwalkers. A hand full of us natives know of the whitewolf clan. Dose anyone else know of the Whitwolf clan? I would like to hear more of them.

  8. Faith says:

    I have read all of the comments that everyone left and it make me more certain that skin walkers are not just myths. I want to fined out as much as I can about skin walkers and the traditions that surround them. If at all possible I would like to talk to some one that has grown up around Native American culture and could give me some more insite.

  9. halfblood says:

    well im half native american and i dont have a clue to what clan or tribe i am but i believe strongly to a person becoming a skinwalker. i mean it would be so cool, because a normal boring life,no id love to be a skinwalker but i have no idea of how to do it. if any body knows how reply please.

    • moonlight says:

      No one will be able to tell you how here. Sorry. Perhaps try looking into your history first, not all tribes have skinwalkers.

      Also, changing your name, blackwolf, doesn’t fool me. Remember to behave.

  10. knuckleheadj22 says:

    Im black and Native American and it shows more in from what people tell me. I do believe in the supernatural and if there are more than just skinwalkers, lycans, and lou garoux out there then the whole world should know about these unique beings.

  11. lynn says:

    i’m a little less then half native american, but take great pride with the bit that i have. i strongly believe in shapeshifters. i would REALY love to learn more about the shapeshifting wolves. must you build up to earn shapeshifting or is it posibble to just be born this way? please you would be helping me greatly.

    • armon says:

      why do u think that i think im one to but im not sure my eyes get really big when im mad and when im sad they also change colors alot i am part cherokee

      • lynn says:

        i’m not shure how you tell if you are or not. my eyes turn gold when i’m angry or sad, but usually they’re green. i get strong urges to chase things. espacially deer and squirels. i’ve believed in these beings for so long. i’ve always felt that i was.

  12. kk says:

    i am native american and i think i may be a skinwalker.!!!????

  13. Mid summers night dream says:

    I am not native at all. My step-dad is Mohawk and so are my 4 younger siblings. we live on the reserve. All of the people there are extremely superstitious. I am not going to go ask them about there beliefs, but I do want to know. Some thing you see in the woods should not be there. This site was extremely helpful.

  14. Kevin says:

    to shed some light. there is no good or bad wolf or skinwalker for that matter. it is the soul of the person that will show through. there are medicine men who can shift and move as an animal who can harbour all the senses and power of the animal but still retain who they are. then there are those with bad hearts they are the skinwalkers that are dipicted in most movies about navajos. I myself am not Dine. but i have many friends who are and i am native as well. and i am tired of hearing bad things about skinwalkers and wish to clear thier names.

  15. not bad, im navajo, dineh 4rm the folded arm chiefs clan…warewolves r my thing they r bada** lol i have had my share of them, i seen them here and there on the navajo rez, my family and friends have the stories…but the things on this lil info r true, some may be 4rm other tribes but it is wat it is…

  16. Crissy says:

    If anyone can help me I would be eternally grateful. I was about 20 at the time. It was late at night and me and my friends had backed in to a parking spot on the edge of the woods. I happen to look in my rearview mirror and saw a big animal running faster than I have ever seen. It was shaped like a wolf but bigger. It had glowing green eyes. I do not know what this was and have been searching for 15 yrs to the answer.

  17. Your mom says:

    THere is bullets at the bottom, hehehehe

  18. Your dad says:

    Those are silver bullets, and i shot the sherrif out of self defence

  19. DarkWolf39 says:

    I have many questions but the most important is what am I? I am not Native American at all that I know of yet I have a very strong connection with the Wolf. Always have. Also I have noticed that I have the ability to change my eye color, sometimes when I don’t mean to. It depends on my mood. They will go green or blue and sometimes golden. Sometimes they even have a redish tinge to them. I love the night and I can howl just like the Wolf. I love rare steak , would eat it all the time if I could. I love Elk meat, not too big on Deer though. I am fierce when it comes to protecting my family, especially my daughter. There are other things too but I don’t want to make this too long. If you guys have any answeres for me or questions even e-mail me post it here. Thanks in advance all! *HOWLS*

  20. madie says:

    I love wiled meat it may be because your body needs the iron that’s in it. Eye colour changes with the lighting your in and with the colour of clothing that you are wearing that day. My light blue eyes some days look dark blue and others they look gold. And parents are extremely protective of there kids… well I know min are…

    • DarkWolf39 says:

      It goes way beyond that though… I can hear better than most people. I can see very good in the dark. i can change my eye color when I wish. Other things too like I can howl just like a Wolf. I dunno. Maybe it is just that I am more sensative than most.

  21. jade says:

    my friends are wolves..well, thats what they told me and i would like some more information………

  22. devon says:

    some what of your stoy is true but some is not im (Navajo) idian the black tongue or harde rock skin.But the whole turning thing thats true were not the only ones who can do it.But i havent done it YET but i plane on it someday.Maybe sonner than i think.

  23. devon says:

    ohh yeah and a nother thing your telling the world its a bad thing but its not for us it means that you beleave in your spirt and what it can do.

  24. jeremy kidd says:

    I think I may be a werewolf cause I’m part of a wolf tribe known as the cherokees and my family was known as the cleburnes a long time ago and sometimes when I practice martial arts I feel like something is about to rise out of me like a monster like a wolf cause they people who represent wolves are known as werewolves of an indian tribe cause I have wolf eyes dark brown with a ring of gold in the middle thats also the eyes of a werewolf and also there’s a werewolf spell you have do under the full moon the spell is “by the light of the moon and our piercing howls we are further transformed into cunnig beasts from the circle of life to the evolution of man I shall be reawakened as one with the land” you have to say it 10 times while under the full moon. And you’ll get sharper teeth, more hair on the human body and uncontrollable anger and will be able to transform once your under moonlight ok.

    • Teeroy says:

      I got chills when reading those words of power. I’m asking to be told more..

    • Teeroy says:

      It’s easy for us to see these stories as true.. For I have heard them in my native lands. For the courageous, they will find that the evolution of Man is from the wolf clans. We are a hybrid. It is my intention to rekindle these powers of transformation. Anyone who can help will receive welcome communication.

  25. Edna Rowell says:

    hi everyone. my grandmother was full cherokee but my mother is full haitian….any ways…i was reading some of the posts and replies and is now very curious. my boyfriend is native american…i dont know what kind but his family is from Canada. I always tease him about being some type of animal and a wolf. his eyes always change color and i get lost in them. His skin is always very warm and he has very sensitive nose. I have all types of dreams about him being un-natural and never mind that he leaves for weeks before he return and i can’t find him…Is all of this shapeshifting stuff real because i really need to know.

  26. Drake says:

    I have some Native blood in me, but I couldn’t tell you what atm. I plan to take a lineage test one day to find out all that I am. Anyways, most would probably think I’m black. My point in posting is that I’m very interested in the topic. Has anyone considered that if werevoles/lycans exists..so do vampires? I’d prefer to be a vampire honestly, but a vampire who considers a werewolf/lycan/skinwalker etc etc my equal.

  27. keith mooney says:

    i am 25% cherokee and another 15% blackfoot i believe i am destined for something about wolves or skinwalkers or even werewolves call me a fool but i think i might be one almost everynight i have dreams about them wolves control my life my room is full of pictures and statues about wolves. but i also have a great respect for the wolf. someone help me explain my dream.

  28. AnnaGrace says:

    I am not Native American what-so-ever but I’ve always been fascinated with the history, culture, and legends. I’m thinking of writing a book about the skinwalkers. I just got the idea very recently that the basic plot would be too different clans of skinwalkers(A good and an evil), the good skinwalkers basically going against the traditional “evil” skinwalkers, because they don’t want to be evil. That’s just a rough thought so far. But anyway, I’ve researched a ton about it, and most articles I’ve read state that the skinwalkers are generally “evil”, which I found very interesting, and is the reason I thought it would be a good story to write about it. I’m just rambling now :p anyway, alot of people that are Navajo, or other Natives that beleive in the legend, say that they generally don’t talk about it; that it’s dangerous, or something. I’m wondering if writing this book is a bad idea? Would talking about it fictionally bring me bad luck or anything like that? Sorry if this sounds dumb, but like I said, I’m nothing Native, so I don’t know much about it[:

  29. Eva says:

    i’m shawnee and cherokee on dads side but also have german blood but i’ve always believed in wherewolfs and other crazy things ..

  30. hooker_t187 says:

    i am a full blood native a blackfeet. i dream about wolf maybe werewolf i was pretty big hunting a deer but the deer was black that why i dream about wolf or a werewolf….

  31. Raymel gaines- edney castro nero says:

    is it possible that i could be a “skinwalker” i have…always had a close connection to my native side of me which is only about 75% im not full blood but ever since i could remember i was always happier around my dogs the wolf has always been my favorite animal and i am told to have a really good singing voice my cousin told me about 3 months ago he was walking through the local park in new york suburbs and he said he encountered a wolf but it looked at him and ran ..he said it was a big wolf and for some reason he wasent scared he said it reminded him of me when he saw it but he was laughing when he said it so i dident take it to seriously , anyways i was curious so i went outside and howled believe it or not we arent suppossed to have wolves in ny but i heard a really faint howl and it was a really nice sound but yea im not trying to freak anyone out but i have always had 20.20 vision and hearing and ive always felt the spirit of the wolf by my side ive just turned 15 and ive been feeling it alot stronger since ive turned 13 all i want to know is it possible because i want to know where my roots are from because most of my native family i am not connected too..thank you

    • Ben says:

      I too, have always been fascinated with wolves. I’m sorry to tell you his but if you were a skinwalker, or werewolf you would’ve changed by now. As for legends, I’ve read you can become a werewolf by drinking water out of a wolf’s paw print; realistically though, you’d probably just get sick.

  32. laughing fox says:

    I am part Cherokee Indian though it is verry diluted and my great grand mother was banished from our tribe and res before she was even 4 years of age I have heard from my father who is been adopted by a crow tribe in Montana that he himself after being in a sweat lodge and after a vision went out of the lodge and saw a young girl change to a wolf and take off into wooded area I’m not sure if it was Jus still part of his vision or an actual occurance I am open to the thought of it

  33. laughing fox says:

    And let me help those of u confused as to if u are a wolf spirit shifter or were wolf or wat ever u may wish to call it if ur blood is not more then a third diluted meaning if you native heritage is not more then a third of ur racial make up ur gifts may be to diluted that does not mean some senses are not still there smell sight physical indurance ect but the modern native has lost a lot of it well wild gifts if u ar a third or more u may be so close that u can feel the animal in u and loose sight of human thought some time but I still changing is not an option we as native people are so far from what are people started as our eyes and minds cannot connect with such unbridled instinct and wild spirit but I believe the ansestors gifts still veugly linger in us hope this help

    • jade says:

      I have always been close to nature. My hearing is un-natural. My eyes go all colors. im only 12 but i really want to why somethings are happening to me. My anger is really hard to control and my eyes go weird colors. one minute they will be blue the next their black. When i feel threatened i can see people weaknesses even feel their pain, just by making eye contact with them. Its starting to creep me out. I used to be a cluts but now im getting way stronger, faster, and my agility is insane. Sometimes i can even know wht people are thinking. i have roots from my grandfather from cherokee. Does anyone know whts happening to me?

  34. kyle says:

    I’m part cherokee iv’e noticed some strange things about myself i cant’t sleep when it’s full moon i dont know if i’m crazy or what and if i go outside all i want to do is run .

  35. Dont call me princess ! says:

    Wow I really find this stuff intresting even before I saw twilight. Im really not one to judge beliefs of anyone . I really am pretty openminded ( eventhough I have a cralieve in crazy streak :P ….) anywho what Im trying to say is that I believe in this kind of folk lore since and I quote Stephen King” Monsters are real, Ghost are too.They live inside us ,and sometimes, They win.if you think about it our true anger can sometimes make us so angry we could think like an animal which rational people would think but I think otherwise that these folktales have more truth than make believe .I have no native american blood in me but I STILL BELIEVE that these tales are more true than false ( sorry for the caps locks during the one part i didnt realize that

  36. MorbidSheAngel says:

    If you please,
    Can a limmikin, Become
    a lycan, where wolf, or vampyre
    Time is important here,
    Thank You.

  37. I love the mythology, the open minds, the rush of hope to believe. While stories of half human – half other are rooted around the world, this does not make them true. It does however speak to the human condition and how much we have in common, our fears and dreams and goals. It is a beautiful web of life we live. Thanks for putting this information together. To me, it is much like the Gods who have been born and killed across the face of this planet during our history. We change beliefs, they grow, they too die or fade to whispers. It is all brilliant myth and part of our history. I am not saying it is not at all possible, I am saying however I find it no more credible than a talking burning bush, or any other religion. My personal belief though is that it is all beautiful myth, tales that make the mind wonder like brain candy, or tales to control people with fear, or myths to wrap oneself in for comfort like a child pulling a blanket up over their heads to hide from imaginary monsters in the dark. All fiction, but goodness isn’t it a wonderful art with a rich history? Who wouldn’t want to roll around in it and pretend it was real? Alas, no one is actually getting a owl letter from Hogwarts.

  38. Donald Jones says:

    im half cherokee all that crap isnt true native american shifters eyes never turn i have the anger and spirit of the wolf im from cherokee north carolina your sense of smell hightens and your hearing also i had to controll my shaking and heart beat to get it slow and steady i read the legends heard the stories you actually dont have to be apart of a certain clan to shift into a wolf or an animal i lived on the eastern band of cherokee indian rez my whole life im more into my native heritage more

  39. Donovan says:

    I am half mohawk, I am a believer and researcher of the shape shifter, ever since my great grandmother, wife of the chief saw a man shift. I want to know more, if anyone is from the mohawk tribe people reply.

  40. julia bailey says:

    what would it mean if your eyes are blueish-grey and you love to eat meat , but your an irish cherokee?

  41. Looking For An Alpha says:

    I have Native American and Italian descendants!! There are tons of stories and folklore from both sides and surprisingly it’s not much different!! I’m not sure what tribe I’m from but if l dig a little deeper I’m sure l can find out!

  42. jewels says:

    Could you say that under the super Wolf moon this January 15 2014

  43. greywolf69 says:

    I am close to being full blood ojibiwe. I remember dreams as a young boy running with a wolf pack and later talking with them. My grandmother strongly let all of us know that our clan is the wolf. In the last few years I’ve been told of my eyes changing from dark brown to a golden amber like a wolf’s. I know my clan is the wolf. I’ve heard stories from elders Wat were r capable of nd it’s really interesting.. for I experienced sum myself.

  44. crystal williams says:

    I’m. Creeck I can hear every thing I was born with sharp teeth my anger is very intense I can tell when someoneisent telling the truth my eyes are a honey brown my streath is out there when I’m made it feels like electric my mind I won’t to hurt that person ….I like the feeling inside of me I’m allways paiying attention to what’s around me my dreams are very real I have vidved dreams of me turning into my wolf side it makes me feel something I can’t explain it I’m not asking why I’m this way I asking how do I tune in my wolf I feel out of place I no this deep down in my bones

  45. Angie. says:

    I believe I have a wolf soul deep within me. I was wondering if any of you know how I can maybe reach that part of me. All I want is to be totally connected with my with the beautiful creature that lives in me. Help?

  46. jade says:

    At wht age do more signs show up. Ill be 13 in May but there showing up more and more

  47. syna says:

    I love wolves because they have a meaning in life and the here for a reason they are trying to show us humans that wolfs are just like us behind wolves there is a lot of legends and history and if we try and look deep inside these beautiful creatures we will no longer fear them but love them and i now that we all can do that if we just find the strength we can do it. I’ve been doing some research on a lot of wolves like their history and what the Native Americans thought what the wolves mean and now i understand what they were trying to get us to understand that we shoulder’t fear wolves no more and try to understand what the Native Americans were trying to teach us and we just need to listen and then we will get the answer that we are trying to get to

    by- Syna

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