Manataka American Indian Council











A Kwakiut Story

Coyote was paddling his canoe down the coast when some people called out to him from the beach. "Coyote, where are you going?" "I am going to marry the daughter of Always-Living-at-the-Coast." "Only a crazy person would do something like that." That made Coyote angry, and he paddled to the shore. He turned all the people into birds, and then he turned the flock of birds into deer.

"You will be the deer that men need," he said and departed. Soon he passed some other people who were standing on the beach. "Coyote, where are you headed?" He told them.

"You should watch out, then. The bones of those who have tried to marry this woman are piled up high." Coyote appreciated their concern. He came ashore and put mussels and salmon in the water, which is why you still go to this place for those things today.

A little while later some other people called out to him, asking him where he was going. He told them. The chief then said, "Be careful, Coyote. All my young men have gone there to marry this woman, and none of them have come back." Coyote came ashore and filled the waters along this beach with mussels, and gave the people roasted salmon to eat. At a place called Copper Bottom, Coyote put ashore again and walked through the woods to a village, where he saw an old woman steaming clover roots.

The woman was blind, but right away she smelled him. "Coyote! What are you doing here?" she asked. He reached over and took a handful of clover roots to eat. "What's this? Who's taking my clover roots?" "Can't you see?" The woman explained that she was blind. Coyote then took some pine gum and chewed it and spit it into the woman's eyes. "Can you see now?" "Yes. I can see well. Coyote told her where he was going. She told him to be careful and gave him some food to take with him. 

Coyote went on until he came to a woman working on a canoe. He went over and pinched the feet of her baby. The child began to cry, and the woman said, "Don't touch my child. He has never cried." She went back to working on the canoe, chipping at the inside, but she cut a hole through the bottom. "Look what you've done. Are you blind?" asked Coyote. "Yes I am," answered the woman. "I am going to marry the daughter of Always-Living-at-the-Coast." "You should be careful with her:  she has teeth in her vagina. This is how she kills all the young men who come to see her. Take my stone chisel, and when you go to bed with her, stick this up in there and break the teeth off."

The woman rubbed Coyote's back with a stone and gave him the masks of the wren, the deer, the mountain goat, and the grizzly bear. Coyote put on a mask that made him look older and went into the country of Always-Living-at-the-Coast, where he sat down by a river. He had not been there long when the man's daughter, Death-Bringing Woman, came by with her friends and saw him. "Oh, he would make a good slave," she said. "Let's take him with us."

So they took Coyote back to camp with them. That night Death-Bringing Woman asked Coyote to sleep with her. Coyote could hear the sound of grinding teeth coming from under her clothes. When he got into bed with her, he heard the sound of rattlesnakes. He pushed the stone chisel in and twisted it sharply, and broke off all the teeth in death-bringing woman's vagina.  

Then Coyote took off his mask. He said he was Coyote and he had come to marry her. They slept together. The next night they arrived at the house of Always-Living-at-the-Coast. That night Always Living at the Coast heard laughing coming from his daughter's bedroom. he got up from his bed and came into her room. "Who is that you're laughing with, my daughter?" "This is my husband. Welcome him." 

Always-Living-at-the-Coast welcomed Coyote and returned to his room.

The next morning Always-Living-at-the-Coast split some cedar and stripped the bark, and made a snare trap. Then he went into his daughter's bedroom and said, "Son-in-law, I want you to jump through that door into the center of the house." Coyote put on his deer mask and jumped through the door of the room right into the trap, where the deer died.

"It serves him right, coming into my house and embarrassing me like this," said the old man. But Coyote took off the mask of the deer and went back into his wife's room. That night the old man heard his daughter laughing again. The next morning he made another cedar bark trap and told his son-in-law to jump through the door into the center of the house. Coyote put on the mask of the mountain goat and jumped into the trap, where he died at once. when the old man went out, Coyote took off the mask of the mountain goat and returned to his wife. That night Always-Living-at-the-Coast heard the sounds of two people making love again and he called out, "Who's in there with you, daughter?"

"My husband," she answered. The next morning the old man did as he had done before, making the trap and telling his son-in-law to jump into the dimness where it was concealed. This time Coyote put on the mask of the grizzly bear and went out into the other room and crushed the trap. Then he sat down to eat.

The old man was still thinking how he might kill his son-in-law. He asked Coyote to go with him by canoe across an inlet to the other shore where they would begin work on another canoe. Coyote and the old man paddled across the water and went into the woods, where they felled a tree and began splitting the log. Coyote took up some alder wood and chewed on it while he worked. They were working along like this when Always-Living-at-the-Coast dropped his hammer into the split. He asked Coyote, who was smaller, to go down into the crack and get the hammer. When Coyote went in, the old man quickly knocked out the wedges holding the split open. Coyote spit out the alder wood, which looked like blood, and the old man thought his son-in-law was dead.

"This serves you right for thinking you could come and marry my daughter," he said, and left. Coyote put on the mask of the wren and flew up out of the crack. He caught up with Always-Living-at-the-Coast. "Why did you leave me behind there, Father-in-law? The log closed up and I was almost trapped."

"Oh, I'm glad to see you! I almost cried myself to death when it happened. I was going home now to tell my daughter. I thought you were dead. I'm glad you got out; I didn't think it was possible." They both got into the old man's canoe and started paddling toward home. Coyote was chewing a piece of wood. When it was soft, he took it out, carved it into the shape of a killer whale, and threw it into the water. "You will be the killer whales of future generations," he said.

Just then the killer whales came up out of the water and snatched Always-Living-at-the-Coast out of the canoe. When he got home, Death-Bringing Woman asked him where her father was, and Coyote said he didn't know. Later the woman had a son. One morning Coyote took his son and went away. 

Reported by Barry Lopez, 1977.
Our thanks to Blue Panther Keeper of Stories