July 26, 2007

Skinwalkers the movie

A movie coming out in August has (mis)appropriated the Navajo concept of skinwalkers. It appears to be about a race of were-beasts that look like us and live among us. They're supposedly missing the gene that separates man from animal.

Wikipedia gives us the movie's plot:Two packs of werewolves, divided by principles, are signaled by the moon of the coming of an ancient prophecy. A young man named Timothy (Knight) approaches his 13th birthday, unaware this marks the time of his transformation. Timothy has been raised by his mother Rachel (Mitra), his grandmother (Gordon), his Uncle Jonas (Koteas), his cousin Katherine (Carter) and Katherine's boyfriend, Adam (Roberts).

Rachel and Timothy have been unaware that the rest of the family are "good" werewolves that have guarded Timothy and his secret since birth. They know that Timothy is a half blood, and will control the destiny of the family. But they also know that Timothy's power will put him in danger, for there are other werewolves that revel and embrace their blood-lust that are prepared to kill to preserve their way of life. These werewolves, led by Varek (Behr), Zo (Coates) and Sonya (Malthe), are hell bent on finding Timothy; their kin.
Here's the official site for Skinwalkers, and here's what people are saying about it in the site's forum:queenofthenight: the movie looks really good and i love werewolf movies but.....anyone from arizona can tell you the true tell of skinwalkers. it is actually a indian tale of people who suffer from a disorder that makes them sensitive to sunlight so they live in the mountains. regular food makes them really sick and they have to live off the blood of humans. they sharpened their teeth and worship wolves. they were their hides as clothes. u can see at night on the indian reservations in arizona and surrounding states. they are know for how pale and skinny they are and how their ribs are seen thru their skin but everywhere else their skin is loose. hence the name skinwalkers. indian children are warned not to go out alone at night because they travel as packs. so this is the tell i grew up with. wouldnt that be a good movie.

Boo Boo: I am from Arizona and a Navajo, i have never heard of the tale of the pale people before... But the real story of the skinwalkers is evil medicine men or women who want to gain more power or whatever they want, go through a ceremony that lasts for days.Through that ceremony they transform into a coyote or a dog, in order to go on their travel. also it can be anyone, not just medicine men or women. it was created back then during the wars between tribes, in order to travel fast in long distances. when they travel they are in dog form, but when they need to do their job, they are in skinwalker (yanogloshi) form, some say it looks as if skin is in the shape of a human body with red eyes. they only travel at night, where no one can see them (they are incognito, as you can say). that's why the elders say you shouldn't be outside at night, plus you have no business being out there in the first place.

feelion: From what I've seen on this website the movie is loosely based on the Navajo legend of skinwalkers. However, it appears more to be based on a cross between skinwalker legend and vampire and werewolf media.

On the subject of skinwalkers, BOO BOO has the best input I've seen thus far. I'm not Navajo but I do study a lot of mythology. Her point that these are evil witches who become skinwalkers, by choice, is a very important distinction between the real Navajo legend and this movie. There is actually more to it, but my resources are second hand accounts and the internet, neither of which of which would garner much respect for accuracy. The lack of reliable sources is also due to younger generations of Native Americans choosing to ignore the cultural history that their parents and/or grandparents have to offer (in preference to conforming to mainstream America...sort of), or lost much of their heritage due to the U.S. government intervening in tribal affairs to "Americanize" the Native Americans (what laughable idea that was). And to speak of such a topic outside of the tribe, outside of shelter, and/or at night is supposedly considered taboo.

navijowalker: Skin-walker (mythology).
Comment:  I hope Skinwalkers doesn't stereotype Indians or portray their religious beliefs as superstition or magic. Otherwise, I'll have to criticize it.

Also, I'll be curious the movie offers anything we didn't see in Wolf Lake, the underrated TV series from a few years ago. Good vs. bad werewolves, werewolves struggling with the change at puberty...it's been done before.


Anonymous said...

The movie or tv industry are using Navaho skinwalkers and shiftshaping medicine for entertainment. It is a subject that is best left alone by the white culture who have little respect or understanding of the ways.

Rob said...

Yes. The only caveat is they may just use the word "skinwalkers" because it sounds cool. And not mention its Native origin.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Anonymous said about the white culture (in general) having little or no respect for native myths, legends, truth, and culture. And I AM white. However I studied much of the culture myself because there is native ancestery in my famiy, and so I gained a respect and admiration of it, and there are other's in the white community who do as well, however, it seems to be a great past time for white culture(in general) and Hollywood to take what belongs to someone else,namely native poeple's and morph it into their own thing and put it out there, and then expect that the native culture should be greatful of the the fact that they "highlighted" their beliefs, and culture and "thought of them". When I saw the trailor which I did from pure curiousity I was dissapointed because I knew immediately that they had ruined it. If you're going to tell a tale, do it right. And stop changing it and adding and subtracting things because you think you're improving on the origonal. Speaking as a Christian, I can say they do the exact same thing with our beliefs, and with God's Word, And it makes my blood boil, but they are accountable for it, not me.

Tanya ND said...

Being half Chippewa well I find it disrespectful to use that movie for that purpose. Why use that about Native Americans it's like us native americans havent been through enough mockery!!! I wish someone would come up with another good movie like "Fargo" hahahha!!!!