Pacific NW: Coyote and Grizzly

This story is part of the Pacific Northwest unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of the Pacific Northwest, especially of Washington and Oregon, by Katharine Berry Judson (1910).


Coyote and Grizzly
Nez Perce

ONCE there was a grizzly bear who was always angry. One day when travelling through the woods she came upon a band of Indians. She ate them all.

In the evening, when she had reached home, she had a bad headache and in the night she became very sick because she had eaten so many Indians. She was sick for a week and almost died.

She sent for Coyote to come as a medicine man. But Coyote said to his friends, "I do not care if she dies. It would not hurt me or anybody else. Everybody would be glad of it." But as his wife told him to go in company with others, he finally went to see Old Grizzly.

After a while he came to Old Grizzly's house and made medicine. Then she got well. He told her she was sick from eating too many choke cherries, because he thought all the people would run away if he told the truth and said it was from eating too many Indians. But when the people were gone and he himself was ready to run he told her she had eaten too many Indians.

Old Grizzly jumped up and chased Coyote. He ran up the hills; he ran down the valleys; he ran through the woods. At last he changed himself into a buffalo eating grass by the trail.

Now Grizzly Bear thought she would catch Coyote, no matter into what form he changed himself. So when she saw the buffalo, she started to kill it, but then she saw Coyote's trail running past it. So she followed the trail. When she had gone some ways, Coyote changed himself into his own form again.

He called after Grizzly Bear and said, "You are only a foolish old bear. You can never catch me." When Grizzly Bear heard Coyote's voice, she started after him again.

After a while Coyote changed himself into an old man who had smallpox. He was in a tepee by the trail. His clothes were old and worn. When Grizzly Bear came up, she looked into the house. She asked the man if any one had passed. He told her a man had crossed the river. She saw a bridge with tracks on it. The bridge was made of willows. Now she thought she could get across on that bridge, so she walked on it. The bridge broke, she fell into the water, and was drowned.

Then Coyote turned himself into his own form and went back to his people. He told them he had killed Grizzly Bear.



(400 words)





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