The Yee Naaldlooshii is, you guessed it, the Navajo word for werewolf; though the Navajo werewolves are actually referred to as “skin-walkers”, which is a term popularized by various films. Yee Naaldlooshii means literally, “with it, he goes on all fours”, in Navajo language. A Yee Naaldlooshii is actually only one of several varieties of witches in the Navajo culture. The witches in the Navajo culture are malignant figures, such as they would be in the Christian or Jewish theology. In order to become a Skinwalker, one must first be initiated into the Witchery Way, –killing a relative, or sibling, incest, or necrophilia are particularly common initiations.
After initiation into the Witchery Way, in Navajo the “án’t’i;i;zhi”, or Corpse-poison Way. Corpse Poison is literal, –it’s powdered corpse, particularly from the fingertips, back of the skull. The preferred source of corpse poison is dead children, especially twins. The witch people become skinwalkers in order to deliver the án’t’i;, –the corpse poison, in secret to the “witch sing”, taking place in a secluded area called the “án’t’i;báhoolan”. The witch’s sing is the opposite of a good sing, –the Navajo gather to sing, paint, and pray to the spirits for blessings, good crops, good hunting, safe families, etc., –the witch’s sing calls for the opposite. At the witch sing, the witch people paint with ash instead of sand. Contrary to popular media representation, the skinwalkers are a malevolent force, there are no “good guy skinwalkers.”
The witch turns into a Yee Naaldlooshii to either travel to a witch’s sing, or escape from pursuers, –skinwalkers are not always wolves or coyotes, but can be any animal. Some legends caution that skinwalkers can even steal a human skin, just by looking into your eyes. The Yee Naaldlooshii are known because their eyes glow like an animals when they’re in human form, –when they are in animal form, the eyes do not glow as they should. Animal skins in the Navajo culture are a taboo item, because of their association with skinwalkers, –sheepskin and buckskin are among the very few others used by the tribe. One of the most interesting things about skinwalkers, is that the belief in them did not die, –the Yee Naaldlooshii are still feared and avoided by the Navajo.