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Tales of Coyote
and other myths and legends


Coyote and the Broken People

Coyote received a basket from Old Woman. He took the basket to the middle of the desert and opened it. The people ran out and went in all four directions to populate the earth. Coyote looked into the basket, and at the bottom were people who were crushed and broken -- He put the lid back on the basket. Coyote then took the basket to the mountain, the home of brother Wolf. Wolf was wise and would know what to do. Wolf healed the people and made them strong. Wolf taught these people how to find food, water and all the other things they would need to know to survive. He gave the basket back to Coyote and told him to return to where it had first been opened. Coyote was to tell the people that this harsh land, that others had passed by, was theirs. That they were now smarter and stronger than the others and able to find what they needed here. They would find plenty in this land that appeared to have little. (Chemehuevi)


Coyote and the Animal People

Forever before there was time, Coyote found a basket near a spring. It was well made and seemed to have something in it. He opened the basket and quail jumped out and quickly ran away. Coyote had set free the first animal-people. (Kawaiisu)


Coyote and Sun

Along time ago, Coyote wanted to go to the sun. He asked Pokoh, Old Man, to show him the trail. Coyote went straight out on this trail and he travelled it all day. But Sun went round so that Coyote came back at night to the place from which he started in the morning.

The next morning, Coyote asked Pokoh to show him the trail. Pokoh showed him, and Coyote travelled all day and came back at night to the same place again.

But the third day, Coyote started early and went out on the trail to the edge of the world and sat down on the hole where the sun came up. While waiting for the sun he pointed with his bow and arrow at different places and pretended to shoot. He also pretended not to see the sun. When Sun came up, he told Coyote to get out of his way. Coyote told him to go around; that it was his trail. But Sun came up under him and he had to hitch forward a little. After Sun came up a little farther, it began to get hot on Coyote's shoulder, so he spit on his paw and rubbed his shoulder. Then he wanted to ride up with the sun. Sun said, "Oh, no"; but Coyote insisted. So Coyote climbed up on Sun, and Sun started up the trail in the sky. The trail was marked off into steps like a ladder. As Sun went up he counted "one, two, three," and so on. By and by Coyote became very thirsty, and he asked Sun for a drink of water. Sun gave him an acorn-cup full. Coyote asked him why he had no more. About noontime, Coyote became very impatient. It was very hot. Sun told him to shut his eyes. Coyote shut them, but opened them again. He kept opening and shutting them all the afternoon. At night, when Sun came down, Coyote took hold of a tree. Then he clambered off Sun and climbed down to the earth. (Tubatulabal)


Pokoh, the Old Man

Pokoh, Old Man, they say, created the world. Pokoh had many thoughts. He had many blankets in which he carried around gifts for men. He created every tribe out of the soil where they used to live. That is why an Indian wants to live and die in his native place. He was made of the same soil. Pokoh did not wish men to wander and travel, but to remain in their birthplace.

Long ago, Sun was a man, and was bad. Moon was good. Sun had a quiver full of arrows, and they are deadly. Sun wishes to kill all things.

Sun has two daughters (Venus and Mercury) and twenty men kill them; but after fifty days, they return to life again.

Rainbow is the sister of Pokoh, and her breast is covered with flowers.

Lightning strikes the ground and fills the flint with fire. That is the origin of fire. Some say the beaver brought fire from the east, hauling it on his broad, flat tail. That is why the beaver's tail has no hair on it, even to this day. It was burned off.

There are many worlds. Some have passed and some are still to come. In one world the Indians all creep; in another they all walk; in another they all fly. Perhaps in a world to come, Indians may walk on four legs; or they may crawl like snakes; or they may swim in the water like fish. (Tubatulabal)


Song of the Ghost Dance

The snow lies there - ro-rani!
The snow lies there - ro-rani!
The snow lies there - ro-rani!
The snow lies there - ro-rani!
The Milky Way lies there.
The Milky Way lies there.

"This is one of the favorite songs of the Paiute Ghost dance. . . . It must be remembered that the dance is held in the open air at night, with the stars shining down on the wide-extending plain walled in by the giant Sierras, fringed at the base with dark pines, and with their peaks white with eternal snows. Under such circumstances this song of the snow lying white upon the mountains, and the Milky Way stretching across the clear sky, brings up to the Paiute the same patriotic home love that comes from lyrics of singing birds and leafy trees and still waters to the people of more favored regions. . . . The Milky Way is the road of the dead to the spirit world." (Tubatulabal)


California Big Trees

The California big trees are sacred to the Monos, who call them "woh-woh-nau," a word formed in imitation of the hoot of the owl. The owl is the guardian spirit and the god of the big trees. Bad luck comes to those who cut down the big trees, or shoot at an owl, or shoot in the presence of the owl.

In old days the Indians tried to persuade the white men not to cut down the big trees. When they see the trees cut down they call after the white men. They say the owl will bring them evil. (Tubatulabal)


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