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Coyote Visits The Land Of The Dead

This version of the legend comes from Edward Sapir's 1909 collection Takelma Texts.

A house there was; Coyote kept going about all by himself. Then, 'tis said, "Ghosts are taking away people," they said, thus he always heard. Just ghosts kept taking away people. A long time elapsed. "What is meant when people say, 'Ghosts are taking away people?' Well, I will go there. When people die they are not again to return here, yet now people are saying, 'Ghosts are taking away people.' I, however, say, 'They are dead.' Not again now are they to come and travel about when they have died," said Coyote.

Now off he went, the trail of the ghosts he followed; he went I don't know where, followed in the trail of the ghosts. Now someone made a chirping sound;1 he did not give ear to that when the chirping noise was made to him, but just went on. The ghosts made a chirping noise to him, but something or other he kept throwing at them, the fungus (?)of pine is its name. In the trail of the ghosts he just went along, and a chirping noise they kept making to him. Then, 'tis said, he arrived in the land of the ghosts. "Now red-eared Coyote has come. Quick, give him a canoe! Coyote now has come," said the ghosts. The ghosts were dancing the menstrual dance. These, with whatever things they had then been buried, just those garments they wore, wherewith, when long ago they had died, they had been buried. Now Coyote built a fire. "Quickly, give red-eared Coyote a canoe," said the ghosts. Now a girl did give to him a canoe.

"Hw+, you shall come to shore to where I am," said Coyote, he now exercised his supernatural power upon her. "Quick, quick, Coyote! come into the canoe!""Hw+, you shall come to shore to where I am," said Coyote. "Into the canoe quickly come!""Hw+, you shall come to shore to where I am," said Coyote. Now the girl came to shore. Coyote was smoking; right here she took her stand alongside of him. "Quick, come on! quick, come into the canoe," Coyote was told, 'twas the girl that said so. Now then, 'tis said, he picked up a fragment of fire; now he set fire to the skirt of the ghost girl, no person she. Now her skirt burned. Then to the water she ran into the canoe and paddled it across. Now these ghosts were still dancing the menstrual dance, and among them she rushed with the fire. Now she set fire to the garments of the ghosts; to everyone she rushed with (the fire), and again set fire to them. Then, 'tis said, all the ghosts were burning. "Do do do do do do!" said the ghosts, while Coyote was sitting on the other side of the water, was looking at the ghosts as they burned.

Some time elapsed and the fire ceased. The ghosts were exterminated; Coyote did that, burned them. Then, 'tis said, "S-for what reason are you going to take away people? Now you have died. Not thus will it be when people die, they will not take others with them; they will die for good. Not again will any one see them, when people die," said Coyote. Now up river he returned. The ghosts he had annihilated with fire.

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More stories to read:

 Native American Coyote myths
 Legends about ghosts
 Legends about death

Learn more about:

 Takelma myths
 Takelma language
 Oregon tribes



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