In Navajo culture, a skin-walker (Navajo: yee naaldlooshii) is a type of harmful witch and/or medicine man who has the ability to turn into, possess, or disguise themselves as an animal. The term is not used for healers.
In the Navajo language,yee naaldlooshii translates to “by means of it, it goes on all fours” While perhaps the most common variety seen in horror fiction by non-Navajo people, theyee naaldlooshii is one of several varieties of Navajo witch, specifically a type of ‘ánti’įhnii.
The legend of the skin-walkers is not well understood outside of Navajo culture, mostly due to reluctance to discuss the subject with outsiders. Navajo people are reluctant to reveal skin-walker lore to non-Navajos, or to discuss it at all among those they do not trust:
Navajo witches, including skin-walkers, represent the antithesis of Navajo cultural values. While community healers and cultural workers are known as medicine men and women, or by terms in the local, indigenous language, witches are seen as evil, performing twisted ceremonies and manipulating magic in a perversion of the good works medicine people traditionally perform. In order to practice their good works, traditional healers learn about both good and evil magic. Most can handle the responsibility, but some people can become corrupt and choose to become witches.