The Coyote in Native American Mythology

Coyote, the Trickster, is a prominent figure in the mythology and folklore of many Native American tribes, particularly those in the Plains, the West, and the Southwest regions. Known for his cunning, mischief, and paradoxical nature, Coyote is often depicted as a creature of ambiguous moral standing, who constantly stirs the pot and blurs the lines between right and wrong.

Characteristics of Coyote

Coyote is often portrayed as a trickster, a shapeshifter, and a master of disguise. He is typically characterized by his curiosity, intelligence, and propensity to use cunning and deceit to achieve his goals. However, Coyote is not entirely malevolent. He’s a complex character, full of contradictions — while his actions often cause chaos and disruption, they can also bring about beneficial results.

His role as a Trickster makes him a disruptor of order, a violator of norms and conventions. He is often motivated by selfish desires, and he doesn’t hesitate to deceive others to get what he wants. Yet, in many stories, his tricks backfire, and he ends up suffering the consequences of his actions, leading to comic situations and imparting moral lessons.

Coyote in Creation and Culture Myths

While the specific myths and tales involving Coyote vary significantly among different Native American tribes, some common themes can be identified. Coyote often plays a crucial role in creation stories. For example, in Navajo tradition, Coyote helps to create the stars by throwing a blanket covered in crystal towards the sky. In another tale from the Wasco tribe, Coyote aids in humanity’s survival by capturing and releasing the sun, controlling its movement and ensuring the change from night to day.

In many cultures, Coyote is also credited with bringing certain skills or resources to humans. There are tales where he steals fire from the gods and brings it to humanity, similar to the story of Prometheus in Greek mythology.

Coyote Stories as Moral Lessons

Despite his seemingly negative qualities, Coyote’s stories often serve to educate listeners about social mores and proper behavior. His tales can act as cautionary lessons about the dangers of selfishness, greed, and deceit. In many stories, Coyote’s schemes backfire spectacularly, causing more harm to himself than to others. These narratives are didactic tools, providing moral lessons to the community, especially the younger generations.


Coyote, the Trickster, is a fascinating character in Native American mythology, embodying the paradoxes inherent in human nature. He represents the dualities of wisdom and foolishness, creator and destroyer, hero and villain. Through his adventures, mistakes, and successes, Coyote provides a mirror to our own actions and choices, teaching us about the complexities of life, the consequences of our actions, and the blurred lines between right and wrong.

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