Shunka Warak’in’s Cultural Landscape

Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 31st, 2007

Shunka Warakin

Remember the Shunka Warak’in?

In 1995, Lance Foster, an Ioway (Hotcâgara) told me:

We had a strange animal called shunka warak’in that snuck into camps at night and stole dogs. It was said to look something like a hyena and cried like a person when they killed it. Its skin is said to be kept by someone still.Lance Foster

Foster, who had heard of the mounted ringdocus, thought it was an example of the shunka warak’in, which he knew of from his own experiences and those of relatives in Montana and Idaho.

The present location of the mounted Shunka Warak’in is uncertain, though some reports claim it has been moved to the West Yellowstone area.

I wrote about Lance Foster in my Shunka Warak’in entry in Cryptozoology A to Z.

Down through the years, Foster and I have become friends, and he keeps in touch about his continuing search for the mounted body of the Shunka Warak’in. Lance just passed on news that there’s an interesting program readers of Cryptomundo might wish to watch tomorrow.

On the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) on Sunday, April 1st (no joke, however), the documentary “America’s Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie” will be screened. Lance mentions that it will have some information about the Ioway First Nation, and he may appear in a small cameo.

Part of what Foster did with the film crew included work on the Iowa Effigy Mounds and various ancient Ioway tribal sites. Needless to say, what is there in the final edit is anyone’s guess.

Lance Foster Art

Few in the world of cryptozoology realize that Lance Foster is a Native artist, and involved in First Nations issues of what are called “cultural landscapes.”

Lance Foster

Here are some highlights from his bio:

Lance M. Foster has over 20 years experience in historic preservation, archaeology, anthropology, community work, and cultural landscapes. He has been employed as an archaeologist and landscape architect for the U.S. Forest Service, as Historical Landscape Architect for the National Park Service, as Senior Planner for the R. M. Towill Corp., and as Director of Native Rights, Land and Culture for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Raised in Montana, he received a B.A. in Anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Montana, an M.A. in Anthropology from Iowa State University, and an M.L.A. in Landscape Architecture, also from ISU. He is also an alumni of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. He is a published writer and artist, and is an enrolled member of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.Lance Foster website

The Shunka Warak’in will not be featured in the documentary, but part of the cultural landscape it lives in will.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

7 Responses to “Shunka Warak’in’s Cultural Landscape”

  1. Bob Michaels responds:

    It looks like a Feral Pig

  2. sschaper responds:

    Being a native Iowan (State not ethnic group) I find this interesting. I’ve been to Effigy Mounds. Way to ancient for it to be tied to the Ioway or any known ethnae.

    We try to preserve tallgrass prairie around our farm pond (dug out glacial feature), we used to have more on the railroad right-of-ways, but unfortunately when the railways made us -buy- back what had been -leased- (while we retained the tax responsibilities) them free of charge under the takings clause in the Constitution, it had to be bulldozed and plowed to make up for the high cost (the alternative was for a neighbor to buy that and do the same, while owning a diagonal strip right through our field. Dad considered it a great pity, but didn’t see any alternative.


    I’ve never heard of anything like the Shunka Warak’in around there, and the oral stories go back to the pioneer days, when you could canoe from north Iowa to Lake Superior, from prairie pothole to prairie pothole, or so it was said. We knew where the old seasonal Lakota encampments were, in Grandpa’s day, arrowheads were frequently found when plowing or walking beans.

    But the closest to that cryptid would be the Scots Collie sized coyote Dad saw at the end of the field last year. Much more likely a young male wolf kicked out of one of the Boundary Waters packs. Too spindly to be a coydog.

    The high school art teacher we had in the late 70s claimed to have seen a bigfoot in the slough just south of Eagle Lake. That would be around the time that there were sightings SW of us in N. Central Iowa. But that is the closest to any cryptid presence around there.

    The tallgrass prairie ends in eastern Nebraska and the eastern Dakotas where the shortgrass prairie begins, FWIW.

    The buffalo grass grows literally up to the eye of an American wisent, and horseback riders would have an interesting experience riding in that stuff. When the wind blows, it is just like waves on the sea.

  3. shumway10973 responds:

    Do we know at all what that thing is? The body definitely looks piggish. I can’t get close enough to tell if the face is, let along the feet. Carnivorous pig?!

  4. Sordes responds:

    The shape of the head and the position of the eyes shows clearly that it is no pig. My personal thought of the Shunka-mount is that it was a very bad taxidermy job made on a coyote or wolf.

  5. Bob Michaels responds:

    Hey Sordes take a good look at some pig, boar species and you will note the similarity.

  6. Loren Coleman responds:

    Sorry, no. The configuration of the skull is canid, not that of a pig, feral or otherwise.

    See feral pig side view here.

    Compare it to the above mount.

  7. Bob Michaels responds:

    Ok Loren, if the animal really looks like the drawing or picture, we need a DNA Analysis to determine identify. It appears low to the ground with a slope to its forehead and nose, could be some sort of a hybrid?

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