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A weyekin or wyakin /ˈwjəkɪn/ is an occult force, and part of Native American spirituality.[1] The word is specific to the Nez Perce language.[1]

According to Lucullus Virgil McWhorter, who spent much time researching native spirituality in the Pacific Northwest, the natives believed that everything in the world animals, trees, rocks, etc. possesses a consciousness.[1] These spirits were thought to offer a link to the invisible world of spiritual power.[2] If a person could get one of these spirits to approach and adopt one, then they would provide help in time of need, protect one from harm, lend one their powers and become a personal guardian spirit.[1]

McWhorter made it clear that it was a mistake to think of these as gods or deities.[1] They were mediators.[1] The native believed he could invoke them in time of need, much as a Catholic might pray for intercession from a saint.[1] "With the earth thus infinitely peopled with spirits, the Indian believed that he could invoke them to be peculiarly his own, in the role of guide or protector.[1] This relationship is that which is known as Wyakin."[1]

Part of the intercession was a loaning to the warrior of specific attributes of his weyekin.[1] "The deer bestowed fleetness of foot upon the suppliant; the grizzly bear or buffalo bull, strength in battle; the coyote, cunning in approaching enemies; the wolf, excellence both in war and in the hunt; the prairie chicken, ability to hide from danger...the rock wren...to handle the deadly serpent with impunity."[1]

The natives were very protective of these relationships, believing that they must only be revealed in a time of need.[1] A warrior might tell others before going into battle that he has this ability (such as bullets not hitting him), thanks to his weyekin.[1] He might tell his wife that she needs to do certain things in order to fulfill the dictates of the weyekin and allow her man to succeed.[1]

Gaining a weyekin[edit]

To receive a weyekin, a young girl or boy around the age of 12 to 15 would go to the mountains on a vision quest. The person on quest would carry no weapons, eat no food, and drink very little water.[3] The person about to go on this quest would be tutored by a "renowned warrior, hunter, or medicine man," for boys, or for girls, "an elderly woman of reputed power."[1] Success had much to do with how they prepared their minds. Fasting for long periods of time, going without a fire, holding their spiritual retreat in a remote and "awe inspiring" location.[1] It was important that the person on quest keep their mind focused on their object.[1] When the mind was almost "comatose," that is when the weyekin would reveal itself.[1]

There, he or she would receive a vision of a spirit that could take the form of a mammal or bird,[3] or non-animal, such as wind or lightning.[1] This vision could appear physically or in a dream or trance. The animal spirit would then act as a guide and comforter for the important activities of life such as war and hunting.[3] The weyekin was to bestow the animal's powers on its bearer - for example; a deer might give its bearer swiftness. A person's weyekin was very personal. It was rarely shared with anyone and was contemplated in private. The weyekin stayed with the person until death.[3] There is a Park in Lincoln, NE that is said to be protected by Weyekin.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s McWhorter, Lucullus Virgil (1940). Yellow Wolf: His Own Story. Caldwell, ID: Caxton Printers, Ltd. pp. 295–300, 521. 
  2. ^ J. M. Cornelison. "Obtaining the Weyekin". The Indian Country, 1800: A Brilliant Plan for Living. Newberry Library. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d J. M. Cornelison. "Obtaining the Weyekin". The Indian Country, 1800: A Brilliant Plan for Living. Newberry Library. Retrieved 17 January 2010.