Billy Yazzie and the Skinwalker

My name is Billy Yazzie, I’m retired back on the rez, it’s an anagram of living for the breathing side of dead. I live beyond Sanostee in a dry wash dried by sun, sired by four clans of a mystery, for this tale they are unsung. In my life I’ve painted pictures on the sand that holds the soul, and I’ve sung a sacred journey for the heart that goes untold. Now the greatest of my interest is the sheep I’ve hunted for, this goes back before my singing, it’s what my life was given for. There are sheep they go a missing from a thief or a wolf pack, or sometimes they are stupid, and they can’t find their way on back. So it is I get my message on the Chapter House’s door, “Billy drive on to Rock Mesa, find our sheep we’re looking for.” It has been my greatest treasure to find that bleating sack of wool, and return him to his owner, and get my bill paid in full.

So it is there is some pyrite in this turquoise of my life, and this matrix will unravel, as my fate did one night. For unto me is stated by the four peaks of my light, that as soon as this tale is related, then my spirit can leave this life. So in circles drawn around me, drawn they there to just suffice, I begin this truthful fable, from a long night of my life.

It was the fourteenth day of December, when the open sky did close, and the snow poured down like water, and our land turned so cold. I was working on a healing way, with my big brother Jim, when the east door of my hogan opened to Grandma Blackhorse’s kid. The girl her face was frozen, and her mouth could barely move, but she cried, “our sheep our missing, Grandma ask that you come soon”. The little lambs had wandered near the canyon of the sky, and her Grandma sure would pay me, if I could find them that same night. So it was I left the small child wrapped in blankets with big Jim, and I saddled up Altsoba with my journey to begin.

1967, in the twelfth month of the year, came a behemoth from the old world in the sums of all our fears. For it was upon my pony as I tread in solid white, headed west of old Sanostee toward the canyon of the sky. The snow was drifting higher, and the howling darkness came, as I stopped to check on Grandma to tell her, those sheep are on their way. In a message from my elder in our native tongue so clear, she said, “watch out for the Chindi, but bring back my lambs so dear”. Oh, I wondered about her warning, as the snow piled up so high there were times in colder weather, I had to dismount, I could not ride. With my jacket pulled up higher, and my magnum 29, I began a call of hunting for two sheep of smaller size. I called them like their mother, with a tongue of proper rise, lilting sweeter than a springtime, inviting lambs to suppertime.

Once I thought I heard a bleating, once the wind it stood stock still, near the entrance to the canyon, with the arch sky walkers built. So I urged on Altsoba, with the tapping of my heel, and the wind, became much lighter, and the snow began to still. Then I saw the lambs of Grandma, standing right before the arch, and the sky upon them bright, and the walker dead of heart. It was Chindi of a bad man, it was ghost of past in real, and between us stood two yearlings, sacrifices, breathing still. So we stood there for a moment as the sky turned yellow, red, with this crystal world before us at the dawning of the dead. Then I heard its voice in passion, crying on a dyeing wind, and he said, “This sheep of ration, is for me for why I’m sent.” For it said, “I am a savior of the dyeing and the cost, and with me they sleep in paradise, till the blessing way is lost.”

So it was before my mother, open sky upon this man that I reached for my thunder and I loosed it in my hand. For six shots that spoke between us, for six shots that kill a man, when I looked upon the archway, there the witch still did stand. In some ancient sort of journey, on some other kind of storm, spoke my Father now before me, slay this monster within form. So as the Chindi, hovered, seeking ways to kill the lambs, it was a song of beauty, that, I sang before his hand. As it was that he did waver, turning whiter than the snow, then in singing songs of judgment, round my feet a circled glowed, and in bending form of beauty did I take my iron of war, and I drew the way of blessing of the earth that I adore. In the snow there were four mountains, that surround this holy land, and between them is a people who will not give up on their lambs.

The skinwalker begged of mercy, for it was not purified, but the blessing way of mercy, in its beauty would deny. In the balance of the arches, as the circle fire would die, I saw Chindi turn to ashes, and its badness said goodbye. In my arms the lambs of Grandma’s turned to look me in the eye, for it was my hunter’s treasure, to return them from this night. Then the sky turned dark with moisture as the snow returned to fall, and I headed for Grandma’s, in the beauty of it all.

My name is Billy Yazzie, I’m retired back on the rez, it’s an anagram of living for the breathing side of dead. – 11.23.2014 – דָּנִיֵּאל


Picture courtesy of Mitch Dobrowner/Kopeikin Gallery

Welcome on down did you fly lava wings, did you bring the people for as far as they can see, did they descend to plant and ascend to sleep. Did the world look so different from the bridge of your peaks? Did the holy wind blow in the mist of lights, supernatural terror in a world without sight, did the fourth world open to your boat with wings, did you land in fire where the sand does sing? Was there land in water, flowing by your side, did you summon great monsters from your ship on high, did your first breath of air born in sacred sky’s, come from secret places living soil that cannot die.

Did the people sail under star and moon, fashioned constellations with the weave and loom? Were there four sacred mountains built by reformed soil, did you place your ship between them and begin to toil, did you harvest herbs of buttons and natural seeds, at the foot of your transport on a desert sea. Why, you must have climbed when your day was done, on that final day you climbed it when the lightning come. It probably came a signal from a naayééʼs teeth flowing blue electric dragon from what we can’t see. While around the ship in holding, there was quiet at last, the chʼį́įdii of the mountain was a ship turned black.

Welcome on down, to what we can’t see, in a brown painted picture of mythology, some say it couldn’t happen, for it’s not their belief, the arrival of the people on a ship at sleep. To approach it is to wonder why it cannot be, the creation of a people from another sea. For one world to another until this one four, it’s a story not so different from all other lore, for shiprock is a temple that rest on this world’s floor, a carrier of a people from another door. Welcome on down did you fly lava wings, did you bring a holy people do they hold the key? – 06/08/2014 – דָּנִיֵּאל

Growing up in Kirtland, New Mexico I got used to seeing Shiprock in the distance, looming, guarding, watching in dark volcanic silence.  For some, the Navajo, it’s presence is holy.  I believe they are correct 🙂