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Legendary Native American Figures: Coyote the Trickster (Southwest)

Name: Coyote the Trickster (Southwest)
Tribal affiliation: Apache, Navajo, Cahuilla
Native names: Ma'ii, Ma'yee, Mai, Mbai, Mba', Ba'ts'oosee, Ma'ch'ose, Mba'ts'oose, Isily
Type: Animal spirits, trickster, coyote
Related figures in other tribes: Coyote (West Coast), Coyote (Plains), Chirich (Arikara), Jamul (Achumawi)

Coyote is the most common trickster figure among the tribes of the Southwest (though in some communities, the same stories attributed to Coyote instead feature Fox as the hero, as many Mexican folktales do.) In Southwestern traditions, Coyote is sometimes helpful to humans, but at other times his impetuous and foolish behavior causes trouble for everyone around him. Frequently he is killed through his own recklessness, but always comes back to life afterwards. Like other legendary beings of the Southwest, Coyote is sometimes described as having human form, and other times animal form. Even when he has the form of a man, stories of the Southwest often derive humor from Coyote's behavior resembling a dog's (eating and sniffing at excrement, trying to mate with his family members, howling at inappropriate times, etc.)

Southwestern Coyote Stories

*The Coyote Cycle:
    In-depth description of the Jicarilla Apache Coyote trickster, with several coyote legends.
*Coyote Fights a Lump of Pitch:
    Western Apache legend about a fight between the tricksters Coyote and Fox.
*Coyote Gets Rich off the White Men:
    A humorous modern Apache legend about Coyote tricking some white soldiers.
*Coyote Proves Himself A Cannibal:
    The Apache trickster Coyote gets the better of Owl.

Recommended Books of Related Native American Legends

Coyote and the Sky * How The Stars Fell Into The Sky:
    Picture books for children based on Navajo and Pueblo myths about Coyote spilling the stars.
Myths and Tales of the Jicarilla Apache Indians:
    Collection of Jicarilla legends and traditional stories.
And It Is Still That Way:
    Charming anthology of legends told by Apache and other Arizona Indian children.
American Indian Trickster Tales:
    Compilation of more than a hundred stories about Coyote and other Native American tricksters.
    (Use discretion sharing these with kids as some of the stories contain adult humor.)

Additional Resources

 Navajo legends
 Apache language
 Navajo language
 Apache words
 Arizona Indians
 Southwest Indian tribes
 Na-Dene languages



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