"Intention, good or bad, is not enough."
"Intention, good or bad, is not enough."
By Sam Deschinny
Tsebonito—Clark Yazzie spends his day as a custodian at the Navajo Nation zoo. There he takes care of animals large and small, from turkeys to cougars. But at night in the cloak of darkness, this otherwise average Window Rock employee dawns a coyote skin and engages in what many call, ‘witchcraft.’ But this otherwise secretive practice is about to see some dramatic changes if Yazzie’s proposed incorporation of skin walkers into an official association is successful.
“I think we’ve gotten a bad wrap, it’s time we create an association to lobby in the interest of those who practice dark incantations. We provide a critical service to the Navajo Nation, especially to Window Rock. You don’t know how many times I’ve been asked by a political official to curse his or her advisory. But our services are rarely recognized. It’s time we get our dues,” Yazzie said.
Yazzie filed paperwork with the Navajo Business Opportunity Office late Monday morning to incorporate, “The Navajo Skin Walker Association” (NSA). He feels that without an official organization, like the Navajo Medicine Men Association, skin walkers can’t effectively lobby the Navajo Nation Council and influence legislation.
Commenting on the 2002 passage of the “Foundation of the Diné, Diné Law and Diné Government,” commonly referred to as “the fundamental laws,” Yazzie said:
“You don’t know how hard it was for us to get anything in the fundamental laws. We weren’t invited to any meetings. Finally we had to ask Edward T. Begay to put in a provision saying that it’s traditional to ‘compete in business.’ This is found in what’s called Navajo ‘common law.’ A couple of us (skin walkers) got together and decided there is nothing more evil and insidious than capitalism, so we got the Speaker to include this in the ‘common law project’”
When I asked him how skin walkers could keep their identities confidential while creating a formal organization, Yazzie said, “that’s easy, we have already hired a lobbyist who we think will understands our organization well, Ervin Keeswood. He is former Navajo Nation Council delegate and current lobbyist for Navajo Housing Authority (NHA), a close partner of ours.”
Yazzie said this lobbyist would serve as “the face” of the organization, but otherwise, the membership would remain secret. Dues would be paid, a hierarchy selected (i.e., president, vice-president, treasury), but official membership would remain confidential.
“Most of us have contacts in Window Rock anyway, we just need to organize ourselves in a coherent fashion. It really isn’t a lot of work.”
But critics are afraid that the creation of a skin walker organization will damage the practice of skin walking.
Harrison Tso, a self-proclaimed ‘skin walker originalist,’ said that the founding clans of the Diné intended that skin walking remain an ‘informal’ practice.
“I think that skin walking belongs to the people. Once it is turned into an organization, it’s sure to cause corruption and nepotism among the skin walking ranks. Assignments will go to family members or friends of head skin walkers. You’ll never see the end of it. Soon we won’t get anything done.”
Other critics argue that skin walking is evil and shouldn’t be practiced. The cherry-faced Pastor Bill Bishop from the First Evangelical Church of Nazareth Nazlini said, “it’s wicked, all these ‘traditional practices are from Satan. He’s really behind this effort. Pray with me!”
“It’s these loose morals from the Obama administration” Bishop continued. “That’s why Satan is running rampant across the reservation.”
But Satan responded, “I’m working with the Obama administration, but they won’t let me touch reservation. That’s the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Apparently the Department of Interior is really careful about who can work with tribes following the Cobell settlement. Not even the Prince of Darkness can get in. I have to get cleared as a contractor, which is years of paperwork and it’s not worth my effort.”
Meanwhile, Yazzie said he should hear back from the Navajo Business Opportunity Office next month. If successful, Yazzie then plans to call the first Annul Navajo Skin Walker Association meeting in summer of 2014, likely at the new Twin Arrows Casino, which Yazzie described as,“the best place for a skin walker to blend in with the general public.