|“||Skinwalkers are powerful shapeshifters, and not particularly welcoming to strangers on their land.||”|
Skinwalkers are a species of shapeshifters who were introduced in Teen Wolf in Season 5. According to Native American folklore, Skinwalkers are people that possess the ability to shapeshift into any animal at will. They are often referred to as medicine men, witches or yee naaldooshii, which translates to “with it, he goes on all fours.” In most legends, Skinwalkers are considered evil, but in the series, this doesn't seem to be the case. They typically transform into wolves, coyotes, owls, foxes, or crows, but they can turn into any animal who is native to their region. They've been known to wear the pelt of the animal they desire to shift into, though this doesn't seem to be a requirement.
In most Native American lore, this rare form of shapeshifter can also possess the ability to "to steal the face" or shapeshift into another person. How this ability is acquired is varies between cultures; many believe a Skinwalker can steal someone's form by looking them in the eyes, while others believe they could only access this ability after they killed a blood relative.
The Shiprock Skinwalkers were introduced in Damnatio Memoriae after Noshiko and Kira Yukimura sought them out to ask for their assistance in teaching Kira control her inner Kitsune spirit, which has grown too powerful for her to keep contained. Though the Skinwalkers, three indigenous American women who live in Shiprock, New Mexico, agreed to help Kira, they informed Kira and Noshiko that if they were unable to help Kira gain control of her Fox, she would be forced to stay and join them as a Skinwalker, spending the rest of her days walking with them under the sun and through the dust. They used a special wrap to help Kira heal her wounds from their initial battle faster while they prepared a test for her that involved fighting a desert version of an Oni demon, insisting that Kira could only return home if she passed the test. However, though Kira defeated the Oni, it was because her Kitsune spirit took control and destroyed it, proving that Kira was not in control and causing her to fail the test. When the Skinwalkers attempted to get her to stay and become one of their kind, Noshiko fought the women until Scott McCall and Stiles Stilinski arrived to rescue them.
In The Beast of Beacon Hills, Kira, knowing that she needed help reassembling her magical katana in order to help defeat the Beast and save the life of her friend and packmate Mason, returned to Shiprock to ask for the Skinwalkers' help. Despite her and her mother's earlier behavior toward them, the Skinwalkers agreed to help her under one condition-- that she return to the desert after her friends were saved and the Beast defeated in order to train and learn control with them. Kira agreed to these terms.
In Apotheosis, after the arrangement with Kira had been made, the Skinwalkers fulfilled their end of the deal by using their power to put her sword back together. In a surprising twist, the Skinwalkers also seemed to be in contact with Theo's sister Tara (who he either killed or at least simply allowed to die in order to become a genetic Chimera), as they used their abilities to summon her to Beacon Hills, which allowed her to drag him underground; while in his underground prison, Theo was haunted by visions of his dead sister in a devastating time loop as part of the Skinwalkers' punishment. Afterward, they stood by and watched as Scott and Kira said their goodbyes before Kira joined them. The Skinwalkers and their new Kitsune protégé then proceeded to disappear into the dust.
It is believed that Skinwalkers often wear the skin of the animals they transform into. By wearing the pelt of that animal, they can channel its power which allows them to take that shape, making them somewhat similar to Berserkers, though Skinwalkers appear to be much more controlled than Berserkers are. Skinwalkers are also known to wear tribal face paint, incorporating certain symbols that have symbolic meaning in their culture.
Most of the lore about Skinwalkers says that they are evil beings, but according to Noshiko, this is not actually the case, as folklore also claims that Kitsune are evil when many of them are actually good or neutral. Skinwalkers believe in controlling the inner animal and are very knowledgeable about their people. They also seem to possess knowledge on other creatures as well, such as Kitsune, as evidenced by the fact that Kira and Noshiko came to them with the belief that they had the necessary skill set to help Kira learn to control her inner Fox spirit.
Powers and Abilities
- Super Strength: Skinwalkers possess superhuman levels of strength. One Skinwalker alone was able to cause a large crack in the earth beneath her feet by simply pounding it with her staff. Another one of the Skinwalkers was able to throw a spear with such force that it knocked Kira backward, impaled her through her shoulder and pinned her to a large, solid boulder behind her.
- Super Senses: The Skinwalkers appear to have superhuman senses, as they were able to tell that Noshiko and Kira Yukimura had arrived at their home despite the fact that they were underground, and they were able to sense that Kira was afraid of her out-of-control abilities, likely due to listening to her heartbeat or interpreting the chemosignals in her scent. Since they are animal shapeshifters like Werewolves, Werecoyotes, and Werejaguars, it is possible that they possess the same heightened eyesight, sense of smell, and sense of hearing that the animals they transform into have as well.
- Shapeshifting: Skinwalkers are presumably able to shapeshift into the form of whatever animal they desire, though this has yet to be shown in the series.
- Terrakinesis: Skinwalkers appear to be able to manipulate the earth. They could move around underground, then quickly rise up out of the earth before they confronted Kira and Noshiko Yukimura. They could also use their super strength in conjunction with their terrakinetic abilities to shake and crack the earth beneath their feet just by tapping it with their staffs. Additionally, they seem to be able to control the desert sand and atmosphere on and around their land by creating dust clouds that can conceal their presence.
- Longevity: Because the Skinwalkers told Kira that she would walk with them as Skinwalkers forever, it is suggested that they are extremely long-lived, like Kitsune, or are possibly even immortal.
- Necromancy: The Shiprock Skinwalkers were able to both communicate with Theo's late sister as well as summon her from beyond the grave so she could capture Theo and put an end to his wrongdoing by dragging him underground.
- Magic/Mysticism: The Skinwalkers appeared to possess some kind of mystical power, as evidenced by how they were not only able to magically repair Kira's shattered katana, but they were also able to imbue it with their own power, allowing her to use their terrakinetic abilities through the katana to create a large sinkhole in the earth; through this sinkhole, Theo's late sister was able to crawl up, grab Theo, and pull him underground with her as punishment for his crimes against her. Afterward, Kira was able to close the sinkhole as though it was never there, suggesting that the sword acts as a sort of key to the underground prison. Additionally, the prison their power created seemed to involve the creation of a mystical dimension of sorts in which Theo experienced an endless loop of the same dream while his body remained in a kind of suspended animation that required no sleeping or eating on his part in order to sustain him. In this dream or hallucination, he was forced to break out of a cubby in the morgue of Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital, only to be caught by his sister Tara, who would then rip out the heart he stole from her and had transplanted into himself out of his chest. Once Theo was "killed," the dream or hallucination would restart anew.
Skills and Abilities
- Natural Medicine: The Skinwalkers are very knowledgeable about holistic medicine, as they used a special wrap to help Kira's stab wound to heal faster. Since Skinwalkers are known as medicine men and women in folklore, it is likely that they are very skilled at other forms of healing as well.
- Combat and Weaponry: The Skinwalkers are impressive warriors who were able to best Kira in a battle, though Kira admitted that she was holding back out of fear of losing control. They are especially skilled with melee weapons such as bow-staffs, swords, and spears.
- Mountain Ash: As a supernatural creature, it can be assumed that Skinwalkers are unable to pass through barriers created by mountain ash.
List of Skinwalkers
Female Skinwalker #1
She appears to be the leader of the group, as this particular Skinwalker did most of the talking when advising Kira and Noshiko during their trip to Shiprock and seemed to be the final authority when it came to the decisions they made. However, nothing more is known about her.
Female Skinwalker #2
After stabbing Kira Yukimura with her spear, she then used some type of patch that sped up Kira's healing ability. She told Kira that she should have used her sword against them in the battle and pointed out that she was too scared of losing control to fight back. She was also shown to be the most empathetic and altruistic of the three Skinwalkers, as she encouraged her sisters to help Kira when she returned to Shiprock asking for their help. Nothing else is known about this Skinwalker at this point.
Female Skinwalker #3
This Skinwalker told Noshiko that if they couldn't help Kira and she failed her test, then she would stay with them and become a Skinwalker forever. Nothing else is known about this Skinwalker at this point.
- Just like Kitsune, Skinwalkers are depicted as evil creatures by myth, though this is not necessarily true in reality.
- Because Skinwalkers wear the pelts of the animals they transform into to adopt their properties, they bear some resemblance to Berserkers, which are humans who have become supernatural through a ritual using bear pelts, bones, and skulls to channel their ferocity and gain superhuman abilities. However, unlike Berserkers, who are mindlessly violent and often under the control of a Werejaguar, Skinwalkers seem to be fully in control over themselves.
- Somehow, the Skinwalkers seem to have contact with at least certain dead people, as they knew Theo's Sister and were able to summon her to take Theo and pull him underground. It is unknown how they are able to do this, nor is it known if they can do this with any dead person, or if it is limited to people they know, people who were murdered, or some other factor.
- According to IMDB, Skinwalker 1 is listed as Dark Spirit, and Skinwalker 2 is named Black Night, though neither name was mentioned on the series.
- The three known Skinwalkers are played by Tiffany Phillips, Emily Alabi, and Tonantzin Carmelo.
- In real life, Shiprock, New Mexico is part of the Navajo Nation, a Native American political territory in the southwestern United States that covers portions of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico. This suggests that the trio of Skinwalkers with whom Kira is training are from the Navajo tribe of indigenous Americans, the second-largest federally recognized tribe in the country.