Pacific NW: Three Coyote Stories

The word "Skookum" is a word of Chinook jargon language (more about that at Wikipedia) which refers to a monster, something like Sasquatch, a.k.a. Bigfoot.

The Clatsop tribe referred to below are a Chinook-speaking people; you can read more about the Clatsop people at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

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).

Creation of Mankind
Pit River (Achomawi)

SILVER-FOX and Coyote lived together. Silver-Fox gathered some service-berry sticks and whittled them down, working all night. The shavings were to be made into common people. The finished sticks were to be warriors and chiefs. About sunset the next day he was ready to make them alive. They turned into people. Then Silver-Fox sent them away, some in one direction and some in another. Then he and Coyote had a big feast.

But Coyote wanted also to make people, so he did everything he had seen Silver-Fox do. He gathered some service-berry sticks and whittled them down, working all night. About sunset the next day he was ready to make them alive. They turned into people. Then Coyote ran after some of the women and after a long chase caught them. But so soon as he touched them, they turned into shavings.

How Coyote Got His Cunning

LONG, long ago, Chareya, Old Man Above, made first the fishes, then the lower animals.

Afterwards he made a man. Chareya ordered the man to decide the rank of the animals. The man said he would give to each a bow. By the length of the bow given him would each animal know his rank. The next day, when the sun was new, would man give away the bows.

Coyote listened. If he received the longest bow, he would be the most important animal; he decided not to sleep. He would be the first one at the meeting place when the day was new.

Night Owl hooted, Wolf howled in the darkness, and Bat flitted over his head. Coyote slept not.

Robin chirped and Thrush sang when the day was new. Coyote slept. So Coyote was last to reach the man and received the shortest bow of all.

So Coyote became the meanest of all animals. But in his distress, Coyote howled to the man, and he, in turn, appealed to Old Man Above. Chareya ordered that Coyote should be the most cunning of all animals. And so he is to this day.

How Coyote was Killed

COYOTE had done many things. Fire he had stolen from Skookums and salmon he had given to the Indians. Therefore Coyote, thinking very highly of himself, wanted to travel to the sky world.

Now Star came every night very close to Coyote. Coyote lived above the clouds, on a mountain top. Therefore Coyote said to Star, "Take me with you." Star only laughed.

Thus Coyote was angry. Coyote said every night when Star came, "Take me with you into the sky." But Star only laughed. Then Coyote howled at Star.

At last Star said, "Tomorrow night I will take you to the sky world." Next night Star came again to the mountain. Star came quite close to Coyote. Then Coyote leaped far and caught on the edge of Star.

So they travelled through the sky world. Star climbed higher and higher. Coyote looked down. The tall firs of the forest were only as large as arrows. Then Coyote became cold, travelling high in the sky world. Star was not warm like Sun.

Coyote became so cold he could not hold on. His paws slipped and he fell. Coyote fell far to the earth below him. For ten snows he fell. When Coyote struck the earth he was crushed as flat as a willow mat. Thus Coyote was killed.

(600 words)

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