Coyote is a mythological character common to many cultures of the indigenous peoples of North America, based on the coyote (Canis latrans) animal. This character is usually male and is generally anthropomorphic although he may have some coyote-like physical features such as fur, pointed ears, yellow eyes, a tail and claws. The myths and legends which include Coyote vary widely from culture to culture.
Coyote shares many traits with the mythological figure Raven. Coyote also is seen as inspiration to certain tribes.
The word "coyote" was originally a Spanish corruption of the Nahuatl (Aztec) word for the animal, coyotl. Coyote mythlore is one of the most popular among Native American people. Coyote is in some lore said to be a trickster.
Coyote is compared to both the Scandinavian Loki, and also Prometheus, who shared with Coyote the trick of having stolen fire from the gods as a gift for mankind, and Anansi, a mythological culture hero from Western African mythology. In Eurasia, rather than a coyote, a fox is often featured as a trickster hero, ranging from kitsune (fox) tales in Japan to the Reynard cycle in Western Europe.
Coyote is the tutelary spirit of "Coyoteway", one of the Navajo curing ceremonies which feature masked impersonators of divinities. The ceremony is necessary if someone in the tribe catches "coyote illness", which can result from killing a coyote or even seeing its dead body. During the ritual, the patient takes the part of the hero of a ceremonial myth and sits on a sandpainting depicting an episode from the myth. He or she "meets" Coyote, who appears in the form of a masked impersonator. The ceremony restores the patient's harmonious relationship with Coyote and the world and thus ensures a return to good health.
Other Native American tricksters
There are many Native American trickster characters, or many faces for the same archetypal figure. Kumokums is a trickster of the Modoc Indians of California. Manabozho is an Algonquian trickster. Among tribes of the Midwest the trickster is something the Great Hare. For many Plains Indians he is Ikotme the Spider. in the Pacific Northwest he is Raven. Great hare, Nanabush or Glooskap in the woodlands, Rabbit in the Southeast, Coyote on the Plains in the West, and Raven, Blue Jay or Mink on the Northwest coast. And in many parts of the country we find the trickster Coyote, Raven, and Iktome are particularly popular figures. One character the Rabbit trickster of the Southeast, passed into modern
Coyote is featured in the mythology of numerous peoples from the area covered by the modern state of California, including the Achomawi and Atsugewi, the Dieguenos, the Gallinomero  the Juaneno, the Karok, the Luiseno, the Maidu, the Miwok, the Pomo  the Rumsen, the Shasta  the Shastika, the Sinkyone, the Wappo, the Yana  and the Yokut. In many of these stories he is a major sacred character with divine creative powers; in others he is a malevolent and often comical trickster. In some stories he combines both roles.
A good example is a Maidu myth that says that at the beginning of time, a primal being called Earth Maker is floating on the infinite waters, when Coyote calls out to him. Together they sing to create the world. After it is completed, and Earth Maker has created the people, Coyote vows to spoil the word and introduce evil to it. Earth Maker orders the people to destroy Coyote, but despite their best efforts, Coyote uses supernatural trickery to outwit them. In the end, Earth Maker is forced to recognise that Coyote's power is equal to his own.
A common theme is of Coyote benefitting the human community by organising the theft of fire, or of the sun, from the supernatural beings who have been keeping it for themselves; in these myths he is portrayed as a benefactor of the people. In a Shasta myth, Coyote saves the world from ten evil moons which have inflicted it with everlasting winter.
In a Miwok myth, Coyote creates all animals, then calls them to a council to discuss the creation of human beings. Each animal wants people to be imbued with its own best qualities, causing an argument. Coyote mocks them all, vowing that human beings should have his own wit and cunning. Each animal makes a human model in its own likeness; but overnight Coyote destroys the other models, so that only his own model comes to life.
A Maidu myth says that as the Creator was fashioning various creatures out of clay, Coyote tried to do the same. However, as he kept laughing, his efforts did not turn out well. The Creator suggested that if he stopped laughing, he might do better. Coyote denied laughing - thus telling the world's first lie.
Some stories depict Coyote as the embodiment of evil lechery: a serial rapist who uses trickery to attack a variety of victims including, for example, his own mother-in-law  and his sister. Such tales may have served to reinforce the community moral code, by using outrageous humour to portray examples of intolerable behaviour.
Coyote is featured in myths of the Chemehuevi, Paiute, Shoshone  and Ute  peoples. In this region most of the stories feature him as a malevolent and lecherous trickster. However, there are some echoes of his divine role as expressed in the myths of California, in particular obtaining fire for the people.
Myths and stories of Coyote are also found in the cultures of the Plateau area: the Chinookan (including the Wishram people and the Multnomah), the Flathead, the Nez Perce, the Nlaka'pamux, the Syilx (Okanagan), the St'at'imc, the Tsilhqot'in, and the Yakama.
In the modern world
Coyote figures prominently in current efforts to educate young people about indigenous languages and cultures in North America. For example, the Secwepemc people of the Kamloops Indian Band in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, have designated their recently opened native elementary school the Sk'elep (Coyote) School of Excellence, while educational websites such as one co-sponsored by the Neskonlith Indian Band of Chase, British Columbia prominently feature stories about Sk'elep. the Mobooks include two collections of contemporary Coyote tales, Elderberry Flute Song and The Other Side of Nowhere, which place Coyote in a number of different hawk Nation.
Coyote also features as a character in the webcomic Gunnerkrigg Court, written by Tom Siddel, where he is portrayed with his trickster characteristics in full force and his status as a god and the implications not left forgotten. Coyote is also an important character in C. Robert Cargill's Dreams and Shadows series, playing a focal role in the manipulation of the storyline. He is presented as a manitou.
One character of the Native American Tricksters that has survived into modern times is that of the Southeast version of the Coyote trickster. Usually called the Great Hare passed into modern American folklore as Brer Rabbit after West African slaves fused him with their own Hare trickster.
- Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Structural Anthropology. Trans. Claire Jacobson. New York: Basic Books, 1963. (p. 224)
- Dixon, Roland B. (April 1908). "Achomawi and Atsugewi Tales". The Journal of American Folklore. 21 (81): 159–177. doi:10.2307/534634. ISSN 0021-8715. JSTOR 534634.
- Bois, Constance Goddard Du (July 1901). "The Mythology of the Dieguenos". The Journal of American Folklore. 14 (54): 181–185. doi:10.2307/533630. ISSN 0021-8715. JSTOR 533630.
- Berry., Judson, Katharine. Myths and legends of California and the Old Southwest. ISBN 978-1153643757. OCLC 606221450.
- Kroeber, A. L. (1925) . Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology.
- Powers, Stephen (1877). Tribes of California. Washington: Contributions to North American Ethnology.
- Bois, Constance Goddard Du (January 1906). "Mythology of the Mission Indians". The Journal of American Folklore. 19 (72): 52–60. doi:10.2307/534762. ISSN 0021-8715. JSTOR 534762.
- Dixon, Roland B. (1912). Maidu Texts. Publications of the American Ethnological Society.
- Barrett, S. A. (January 1906). "A Composite Myth of the Pomo Indians". The Journal of American Folklore. 19 (72): 37–51. doi:10.2307/534761. ISSN 0021-8715. JSTOR 534761.
- Kroeber, A. L. (1907). Indian myths of south central California. University of California. OCLC 890498334.
- Dixon, Roland B. (January 1910). "Shasta Myths". The Journal of American Folklore. 23 (87): 8–37. doi:10.2307/534320. ISSN 0021-8715. JSTOR 534320.
- Kroeber, A. L. (April 1919). "Sinkyone Tales". The Journal of American Folklore. 32 (124): 346–351. doi:10.2307/534986. ISSN 0021-8715. JSTOR 534986.
- Kroeber, Henriette Rothschild (October 1908). "Wappo Myths". The Journal of American Folklore. 21 (82): 321–323. doi:10.2307/534580. ISSN 0021-8715. JSTOR 534580.
- Sapir, Edward & Dixon, Roland B (1910). Yana Texts together with Yana Myths. University of California.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- Kerven, Rosalind (2018). Native American Myths collected 1636 - 1919. Talking Stone. ISBN 9780953745487.
- Merriam, C. Hart (1910). The Dawn of the World: Myths and Weird Tales Told by the Mewan (Miwok) Indians of California. Cleveland: Arthur H. Clarke Co.
- Leeming, David. "Coyote", Oxford Companion to World Mythology, Oxford University Press, USA, 2005 ISBN 9780195156690
- Kroeber, A. L. (April 1907). "Horatio Nelson Rust". The Journal of American Folklore. 20 (77): 153. doi:10.2307/534662. ISSN 0021-8715. JSTOR 534662.
- Kroeber, A. L. & Marsden, W. L. (1972) . Notes on Northern Paiute Ethnography. University of California, 1972.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- Lowie, Robert H. (1909). The Northern Shoshone. American Museum of Natural History.
- St. Clair, H. H. & Lowie, R. H.: (1909). Shoshone and Comanche Tales. Journal of American Folklore.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- Kroeber, A. L.: (1901). Ute Tales. Journal of American Folklore.
- Mason, J. Alden: (1910). Myths of the Uintah Utes. (Journal of American Folklore,).
- Chinookan stories
- Flathead stories
- Nez Perce Stories
- Other stories from Plateau tribes
- "Stories of the Secwepemc". Archived from the original on 19 November 2004. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
9. Cooper, Guy. “World Mythology.” World Mythology, by Roy G. Willis, vol. 1, Metro Books, 2012, pp. 220–234.