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Native American Coyote Mythology

The coyote is one of several North American animals whose name has Native American origins. The word "coyote" was originally a Spanish corruption of the Nahuatl (Aztec) word for the animal, coyotl. From there it was borrowed into English.

Coyote is a major mythological figure for most Native American tribes, especially those west of the Mississippi. Like real coyotes, mythological coyotes are usually notable for their crafty intelligence, stealth, and voracious appetite. However, American Indian coyote characters vary widely from tribe to tribe. In some Native American coyote myths, Coyote is a revered culture hero who creates, teaches, and helps humans; in others, he is a sort of antihero who demonstrates the dangers of negative behaviors like greed, recklessness, and arrogance; in still others, he is a comic trickster character, whose lack of wisdom gets him into trouble while his cleverness gets him back out. In some Native coyote stories, he is even some sort of combination of all three at once.

Among the Pueblo tribes, the coyote was believed to have hunting medicine. Zuni hunters kept stone effigies of coyotes as one of their six hunting fetishes, associating coyotes with the west and the color blue. Coyotes are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Coyote Clans include the Cahuilla tribe, the Mohave, the Hopi (whose Coyote Clan is called Isngyam or Ish-wungwa), the Zuni (whose Coyote Clan name is Suski-kwe,) and other Pueblo tribes of New Mexico. Some tribes, such as the Pomo, also had a Coyote Dance among their tribal dance traditions.

Native American Coyote Gods and Spirits

Chirich (Arikara)
Coyote (Plains Indian tribes)
Coyote (Southwestern tribes)
Coyote (West Coast tribes)
*Isily (Caddo)
Jamul (Achumawi)
Old Man and Old Woman (Blackfoot)
*Sinawava (Chemehuevi)
*Talapus (Chinook)
*Yelis (Coos)

Native American Legends About Coyotes

How the Buffalo Were Released on Earth * Coyote Frees The Buffalo * Coyote and the Buffalo:
    Legends from the Southern Plains about how Coyote brought buffalo to the people.
*Coyote and the Origin of Death * How Death Became Eternal * Coyote Regulates Life After Death:
    Coyote myths from the Caddo tribe explaining why death is permanent.
Coyote and the Rattlesnake:
    Southwest Indian Coyote legend describing the origin of cremation.
How the Old Man Made People:
    Blackfoot legend about A-pe'si the Coyote creating women.
*Little Friend Coyote:
    Blackfoot story about a coyote who helped a Piegan widow escape from the Kutenais.
*How Wihio Got Tongue:
    Cheyenne legend about Wihio getting the better of Coyote.
*Legend of the Crazy Dog Society:
    Blackfoot myth about magical Little People who teach powerful coyote medicine to a brave boy.
*Coyote and Cloud:
    Achumawi legend of a race between Coyote and a Cloud.
*Achomawi Creation Myth * Coyote and Silver-Fox * Creation and Longevity:
    California Indian Coyote stories about the creation of the world.
Silver-Fox and Coyote:
    Achumawi myth about Silver-Fox creating people and Coyote trying to imitate him.
*Spider Woman and Coyote:
    Achumawi Coyote myth about the animals working together to end winter.
*The Monster Who Came Up The River:
    Cayuse legend about Coyote using his cleverness to slay a monster that was causing a famine.
*The Universal Change:
    Alsea Coyote myth about the naming of the animals.
*Adventures of Coyote * Coyote The Hungry * Coyote Turns Into A Corn Mill:
    Caddo tales of the trickster Coyote and his humorous attempts to find food.
*Coyote's Eyes Are Replaced by Buckeyes: * Coyote Loses His Eyes:
    Plains Indian legends about Coyote losing his eyes.
*Coyote And Turtle Run A Race:
    Caddo legend about Turtle using his wits to win a race with Coyote.
*Coyote and the Selfish Woman:
    Caddo Coyote legend about a woman punished for hoarding food.
*Coyote Becomes A Buffalo:
    Caddo legend about Coyote misusing Buffalo medicine.
*Coyote, the Deer, and the Wind:
    Caddo legend about Coyote rashly losing a power given to him by Wind.
*Coyote Challenges the Snake * Coyote and Never-Grows-Larger:
    Southern Plains legends about Snake proving himself more powerful than Coyote.
*Coyote Dives For Meat:
    Caddo legend about Wild-Cat getting the better of Coyote.
*Coyote The Hungry * Coyote Escapes An Imaginary Foe:
    Caddo folktales about Coyote being frightened by a turkey feather.
*Coyote Goes Fishing:
    Caddo legend about a man who takes revenge on Coyote.
*Coyote And Bobcat Scratch Each Other:
    Apache Coyote myth about the animals playing tricks on one another.
*Coyote Proves Himself A Cannibal:
    Apache legend about the trickster Coyote getting the better of Owl.
*Coyote Fights a Lump of Pitch:
    Western Apache legend about a fight between the tricksters Coyote and Fox.
*The Girl Who Had Power To Call The Buffalo:
    Caddo legend explaining why Coyote is always hungry.
*Coyote Gets Rich off the White Men * Coyote Shows How He Can Lie * Coyote and Wasichu:
    Humorous modern Coyote legends from the Apache tribe.

Recommended Books of Coyote Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

Coyote In Love With A Star:
    A charming modern retelling of a classic Prairie Indian folktale, told by a Potawatomi author.
A Salish Coyote Story: Beaver Steals Fire:
    Traditional Coyote folklore about the origin of fire, presented by the Salish and Kootenai tribes.
Coyote and the Sky * Coyote Places the Stars * How The Stars Fell Into The Sky:
    Three Coyote stories for children, depicting legends from various tribes about Coyote distributing the stars.
Coyote Stories:
    A great collection of Salishan Coyote stories told by an Okanagan author.
Trickster: Native American Tales:
    Excellent anthology of stories about Coyote and other trickster animals told by Native American storytellers from various tribes.
Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies:
    Book by a Karuk elder about the meanings of Indian animal spirits, including a chapter on coyotes.
Native American Animal Stories:
    American Indian tales about Coyote and other animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.
American Indian Trickster Tales:
    Compilation of more than a hundred Native American trickster stories from all corners of the United States,
    including many Coyote legends. Use discretion sharing these with kids as some of the stories contain adult humor.



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