Coyote--wanderer, glutton, lecher, thief, cheat, outlaw, clown, pragmatist, survivor. In the desert Southwest US, where I grew up, coyote the trickster still plays an important pragmatic and ceremonial role in the lives of Native American people. I like him because he never gives up, is always willing to say “yes” to anything, and never takes himself too seriously. Important traits to have when you are writing IDL programs.
In the traditional oral literature of Native Americans, mythological creatures like coyote do not represent animals. Instead, they represent the First People, members of a mythic race who first populated our world and lived before humans existed. The First People had tremendous powers and created all we know in the world, but they were--like us--capable of being brave or cowardly, conservative or innovative, wise or stupid.
Native American coyote stories are told to audiences of young and old alike. They are sometimes told to explain cosmology, as instructional tales for the young, to illustrate history, to illuminate tragedy, and sometimes just for the sheer hilarity of telling and hearing a funny story. In all these guises, coyote stories are a mirror for our own lives, pointing out the petty foibles and the most magnificent strengths.
|In a more practical vein, coyotes are survivors, able to co-exist around the edges of most human habitats. I see them frequently around Fort Collins, where I live, “goin' along, looking for food, the way they always do.”
For more information about coyote stories, see Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping With His Daughter by Barry Lopez or the Coyote Reader by William Bright, two of my favorite coyote books.
The picture of Coyote in his natural environment is courtesy of wildlife photographer Tom Davenport of Prairie Photography.