Music: Heart Of The World by Mary Youngblood
|Coyote Creates the Earth
A Yinnuwok Legend
Long ago there was no earth, only water. Coyote was floating around on a small raft when he met the ducks. They were the only other creatures.
"My brothers," he said, "there is no one else around. It is no good to be alone like this. You must get me some earth so I can make things right." He
turned to the red-headed mallard. "Dive beneath this water and try to bring up some earth. We'll use it as a means of living."
The red-headed mallard dived. He remained down for a long time but came up without bringing any earth. Coyote turned to the pinto duck, "I sent
the older one, but he was not able to get any earth. Now I will let you try."
The pinto duck came up after a long time and said, "My brother, I was not able to get any."
"How is that? I thought surely you would bring some."
Then Coyote asked a smaller, blue-feathered duck to dive. "If you do not bring up any, we will have no land to live on."
He dived down, but he came up with no earth. Coyote did not know what to do. Then the grebe spoke up. "My older brother, you should have asked
me to go before you asked these others. They are my superiors, but they are helpless." He took his turn diving and stayed down a long time.
When he came up Coyote said, "What sort of luck did you have?"
"I have brought some." He had a little dirt between his webbed feet.
Coyote said, "To every undertaking there are always four trials. You have achieved it." Then he took the mud and said, "I will make this into the
earth. You will live in the ponds and streams and multiply there where you can build your nests. Now, I am going to make this earth."
Coyote took the mud in his hand and he started in the east. "I will make it large so we have plenty of room."
As he traveled along he spread the mud around and made the earth. He traveled like this for a long time going toward the west. When he had
finished he said, "Now that we have this earth, there are some things that want to be here." they heard a wolf howling. "Already there is one
howling," said Coyote. He pointed toward the Sun, which was going down, and said, "Listen, there is another one out there now." It was a coyote.
"That coyote has attained life by his own powers," said Coyote. "He is great." Then they all went for a walk.
Out on the plains they saw some shining objects. When they got up close they saw that these were medicine stones. "This is part of the earth," said
Coyote, picking up one of the stones which looked like a buffalo, "There shall be stones like this everywhere. They are separate beings." When they
had gone on some way they saw a person standing near a hill. "look," said Coyote, "there is a human being. He is one of the Stars, but now he is
down here stranding on the ground. Let's go look at him." When they got up close, the star-person changed himself into a plant. It was the tobacco
plant. There were no other plants around at the time. It was the first.
Coyote said, "From now on all people will have this plant, take it in the spring and raise it. It is the Stars up above that have come down like this.
They will take care of the people. Take care of this plant. It will be the means of your living. Use it in dancing. When you plant it in the spring, sing
this song: Female comrade, the earth, where shall I plant it?" After that, Coyote found there was no grass. "This is no good." He made it. "Let us
make some mountains, hills and trees." He made them all. He saw there were no fish in the creeks, so he put some there. This is the way he started
the whole thing.
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A Yinnuwok Legend
This is a tale the old men tell around the fire, when the stars are blown clean on a windy night, and the coyotes are howling on the Cree Jump. And
when, sometimes, over the wind, comes clearly the sound of running horses, their hearers move a little closer to one another and pile more wood on
This is a story from a long time ago, say the Old Ones. What the man's name was, no one knows now, and so they call him "The Traveler".
Long ago, The Traveler was a wealthy chief. A warrior in his young days, he had taken many scalps, many horses, and many another trophy of
value. And he had increased his possessions by hard dealings with those less fortunate, and by gambling with younger men who were no match for
His fellow tribesmen did not love him although they admired his bravery, for in times of hardship, when other chiefs shared freely whatever they had,
he drove hard bargains and generally prospered from the ills of others. His wives he had abused till their parents took them away; his children hated
him, and he had no love for them.
There was only one thing he cared for: his horses. They were fine horses, beautiful horses, for he kept only the best; and when a young warrior
returned from a raid with a particularly good horse, The Traveler never rested until (whether by fair means or not) he had it in his possession. At
night, when the dance drum was brought out, and the other Indians gathered round it, The Traveler went alone to the place where his horses were
picketed, to gloat over his treasures. He loved them. But he loved only the ones that were young, and handsome, and healthy; a horse that was old,
or sick, or injured, received only abuse.
One morning, when he went to the little valley in which his horses were kept, he found in the herd an ugly white stallion. He was old, with crooked
legs, and a matted coat, thin, and tired looking.
The Traveler flew into a rage. He took his rawhide rope, and caught the poor old horse. Then, with a club, he beat him unmercifully. When the
animal fell to the ground, stunned, The Traveler broke his legs with the club, and left him to die. He returned to his lodge, feeling not the slightest
remorse for his cruelty.
Later, deciding he might as well have the hide of the old horse, he returned to the place where he had left him. But, to his surprise, the white stallion
was gone. That night, as The Traveler slept, he had a dream. The white stallion appeared to him, and slowly turned into a beautiful horse, shining
white, with long mane and tail --a horse more lovely than any The Traveler had ever seen.
Then the Stallion spoke: "If you had treated me kindly," the stallion said, "I would have brought you more horses. You were cruel to me, so I shall
take away the horses you have!"
When The Traveler awoke, he found his horses were gone. All that day, he walked and searched, but when at nightfall he fell asleep exhausted, he had
found no trace of them. In his dreams, the White Stallion came again, and said, "Do you wish to find your horses? They are north, by a lake. You
will sleep twice, before you come to it."
As soon as he awakened in the morning, The Traveler hastened northward. Two days' journey, and when he came to the lake there were no horses.
That night, the Ghost Stallion came again. "Do you wish to find you horses?" he said. "They are east, in some hills. There will be two sleeps before
you come to the place."
When the sun had gone down on the third day, The Traveler had searched the hills, but had found no horses. And so it went night after night the
Stallion came to The Traveler, directing him to some distant spot, but he never found his horses. He grew thin, and foot sore. Sometimes he got a
horse from some friendly camp; sometimes he stole one, in the night. But always, before morning, would come a loud drumming of hoofs, the Ghost
Stallion and his band would gallop by, and the horse of The Traveler would break its picket, and go with them.
And never again did he have a horse, never again did he see his own lodge. And he wanders, even to this day, the old men say, still searching for his
Sometimes, they say, on a windy autumn night when the stars shine very clearly, and over on the Cree Jump the coyotes howl, above the wind you
may hear a rush of running horses, and the stumbling footsteps of an old man. And, if you are very unlucky, you may see the Stallion and his band,
and The Traveler, still pursuing them, still trying to get back his beautiful horses.
|Why the Mouse is so Silky
A Yinnuwok Legend
One day, in his wanderings in the land of the Swampy Cree, Wesukechak, known as Bitter Spirit, saw a big, round stone lying beside the rocky path.
Because Bitter Spirit could talk and understand the language of nature, he always spoke to the birds and animals and many other things.
Now he spoke to the stone. "Can you run fast?" he asked.
"Oh, yes," answered the stone. "Once I get started, I can run very fast."
"Good!" Bitter Spirit said to the stone. "Then you must race me."
"I will," answered the stone, "if you can push me to where I can start."
With great difficulty, the maker of magic did so, and without waiting, the stone started to roll downhill, going faster and faster. Bitter Spirit caught
up with it almost at ground level and mocked it as he ran past. "You are a turtle," he laughed. "You cannot travel fast." The stone was very angry
but did not reply.
Bitter Spirit ran and ran until he was so tired that he fell down on his face and slept soundly. The stone caught up with him and rolled up his legs and
then onto his back where it was stopped by his shoulders. It could roll no further.
Being a big and very heavy stone, it held Bitter Spirit on the ground so that he could not move. The maker of magic had awakened in pain when the
stone rolled onto his legs but could not escape in time.
"Roll off my back, stone," he shouted angrily. "You are heavy; I hurt and, and I can not move!"
"You laughed at me when you passed," said the stone, "but you see I have caught up with you. Now that I have stopped, I cannot move until someone
sets me rolling again. I must stay here."
For many moons, the stone rested on the back of Bitter Spirit and the maker of magic could not help himself to get free. At last, Thunder decided to
send some of his bolts of lightning to smash the stone and set Bitter Spirit free. "And so, Old stone, you are punished for holding me here so long,"
cried the wonder maker as he continued on his way.
His clothes had been torn and worn, so Bitter Spirit threw them into a bark lodge which he saw nearby, ordering that they be mended. They were
thrown outside so quickly and had been so well repaired that Bitter Spirit cried out in surprise. "Who are you in that lodge? Come out, so that I may
see and reward you."
The maker of magic was much surprised when he saw a tiny mouse creep out of the lodge. It was an ugly, fat, rough-haired little creature in those
days with a short, stubby nose. Bitter Spirit picked the mouse up very gently and stroked its little blunt nose until it became pointed. "Now you will
be able to smell out your food better," he said. Next, he brushed and combed its rough hair with his fingers until the hairs of the little creature became
as soft as down and smooth as the fur of an otter. "Now you will be able to run more easily into little holes in tree trunks when your enemies come,"
Wesukechak said, and so it was. To this day, the mouse is soft and furry and it sniffs daintily with its long nose.