By Tina R. McSwain
These spirits are as diverse as the many Native American tribes themselves. This is a very broad category that cannot possibly be covered here. My intent is to but introduce the concept.
In this country, some people have had what they consider very real encounters with what they believe are Native American “skin-walkers”. The term “skin-walker” has variable meanings depending on tribal affiliation. While some describe these creatures as something close to a werewolf, others consider them witches with a supernatural ability to transform into various animals. Most Native Americans typically have a positive attitude towards “magic” and its practitioners, but these are thought of as “witches” who have honed their abilities through acts of evil. This twists them into something more than human.
The powers they possess can only be obtained by killing another member of the tribe. This disrespect for the basic morals of tribal society and human decency turns skin-walkers into outcasts. They are feared and hated by the other members of the tribe. It is said that their animal forms are slightly deformed because of their evil nature.
In recent years, some paranormal places have been considered hotspots of skin-walker activity (the most famous being Utah’s “Skinwalker Ranch” or Marley Woods). The otherworldly goings-on include everything from apparitions, cryptid creatures, UFO sightings and cattle mutilations.
Native American culture also brings us the “chindi”, a sort of avenging spirit, released at death to attack those who offended the deceased. Chindi are dangerous, single-minded entities. It is said that even being near one can cause “ghost sickness”; a sometimes fatal wasting away of the infected person.
Many people believe that the phenomenon of “shadow people” is somehow related to Native American mythology. These shadow beings have been witnessed in cemeteries, homes, and even in the vicinity of Indian burial grounds. At this point no one is sure of their exact origins. Some believe them to be evil-natured while others consider them protective spirits. Some even claim they are from another dimension.
In the folklore among many Native North American tribes, appear water babies that are small in human form, and inhabit lakes, streams, springs, and other bodies of water. They are not malicious, but do at times play tricks on humans, and are feared.
There are countless culture-specific supernatural creatures; the more familiar you are with the culture and beliefs themselves, the more you can understand the various entities the people fear.