Coyote is traditionally a trickster character of many Native American traditions, appearing in the traditions of people in the northern regions of the arctic circle and in southern places in current day Mexico. (Erdoes and Ortiz 1998) Coyote has captivated audiences worldwide, but he is not the only type of trickster in the numerous Native American traditions that have existed, but is the most represented because he has been a "fan favorite" of the cultures who created him, the storytellers that have been recorded, and the field folklorists who collect these stories. (Bright 1978)

Coyote, being a trickster, doesn't always achieve his goals. He often fails and is sometimes the victim of other tricksters. (Bright 1993) Coyote is known for his wide antics, and he is a very useful stock character to use to teach a variety of lessons to many audiences, mainly children. (Grinnell 2008) Coyote is the perpetrator of gluttonous acts, creating the world, wandering, being selfish, being a thief, cheating, being an outlaw, being a spoiler, losing, being a clown (intentionally and not), being pragmatic, being horny, as "ruining" women, and as being a survivor of natural catastrophe. (Bright 1978) (Erdoes and Ortiz 1998)

Coyote is an important character is a multitude of traditions, and each tradition holds different levels of reverence for him. In some cultures he is half-man and half-animal, while to some peoples he is a full animal version of the animal. When a story is told starring Coyote, the audience knows that he is going to be up to no good, and knows that they should expect him to do something wrong. The idea that coyote represents trouble and efficiently informs the audience of certain story types to happen, namely the trickster story type, he is a useful tool in the traditions of which he is a part.

Grandma Coyote's Perception of CoyoteEdit

Grandma Coyote, Christian name Fran Chastain, is an active Native American story teller. Her heritage is a mix of Chickasaw, Cherokee, and European. She has learned the stories and Oral Traditions of the cultures from her father and grandparents, but adapts the stories she has heard into a story that she likes.

In 2008, Grandma Coyote performed a creation story at the Thundering Spirit Family Pow Wow, where her introduction and performance were videotaped and uploaded to YouTube. The video was accessed in December of 2008 and her introduction was transcribed. Grandma Coyote explains the origin of the story she told - that it was the summation of many parts of other stories of many peoples. She stresses that she does not want to offend any tribes or nations, but that the form of story she performed met her satisfaction and fulfilled the needs of the tradition. She talks about how Oral Traditions evolve over time, and can have influences on outside cultures. According to Grandma Coyote, the spirits of her grandmothers teach her and tell her things to say while she is performing the story.

Grandma Coyote also mentions the purpose of oral stories. She claims that while some are meant purely for entertainment, almost all of the stories were used to teach a message. Her example is that the stories are told after a child makes a mistake, and that after hearing the story enough after making the same mistake, they would understand that they were just as bad as Coyote or the other animal in the story, and eventually learn the error of their ways.

Grandma Coyote is a fan of Coyote, which is why she named herself after him. She knows that many people refer to him as a trickster, but she believes that he just likes to "play", such as a curious child would.

Video Introduction Transcription
Grandma Coyote tells a Creation Story

Grandma Coyote tells a Creation Story

I am <?> Coyote. I am Grandma Coyote. I am <?>. I am Cherokee. I am also also Welsh and Irish, and uh I come to you tonight to, uh, bring the traditions of my ancestors of my grandmothers. I have all of my grandmothers here with me. They whisper in my ear, they teach me, they tell me things that I have to know, and I pass those on to you.

The stories I am going to tell you are stories that have been told to me and stories that I have told for many years, many times, in many different places. Please, if you are of a specific tribe or nation do not be offended if something I say isn't quite exactly like you learned it because these stories have evolved over the years. You might hear one part of the story from one tribe one nation and another part from another direction. So the intention is not to offend, it's just that they have evolved and have become my way of telling them.

Most stories were told, uh, for a purpose. Some just to entertain, but most were for a message. By using animals in the stories, children could be, uh, reprimanded, they could be scolded, they could be taught a lesson. <?>You know I specifically</?> recall a child, John who had been bad one day. You tell Johnny a story about Bear, or about Coyote and how bad he was and how he got in trouble. Well eventually Johnny or Suzie, or whoever, begins to learn that they acted just like Bear, or they acted just like Coyote, and they begin to see the message in that story.

Coyote is a trickster, you know, in many nations, many cultures. To me, Coyote is just Coyote. And sometimes by nature he just comes out and plays. So I ask you all tonight to do as my grandmother said "each of us has a little boy or little girl inside of us" and I ask you to let that child come out and play with Grandma Coyote tonight. So this is for you adults as well as children.

This is my interpretation of the creation story as it was told to me by my grandmother.

In the beginning all was water... Grandma Coyote continues telling the story...

Source: YouTube permalink
Source: Transcribed from multiple viewings of the video.

External LinksEdit

  Twbtg2's Project on Native American Trickster Stories edit

Navigation: Twbtg2 - Abstract - Table of Contents - All Articles - Suggested Routes - Sources
Elements: Trickster story type - Coyote - List and maps of Native American tribes
Stories: The Coyote & The Prairie Dog - Coyote and Junco - Coyote and Turtle Story - Coyote Races Buffalo - Coyote Steals a Drink - Don't Be Too Curious - Rabbit's Short Tail
Approaches: Ethnopoetics - Performance Theory - Immanent Art - All
Sources: American Indian Trickster Tales - Calvin Grinnell Interview - A Coyote Reader - Coyote Stories - Finding the Center - How to Read an Oral Poem - Inconstant Companions - Tales of the North American Indians - The Telling of the World - All

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