Legend Categories
North America / California Area
Maidu - Coyote and the Story of Death


Most of the North American tribes have tales about the struggle between the good and the bad Gods. The Coyote is a good God in many of the tribes mythology. This is the history about how he introduced death among humans and then regretted it.

In the beginning there was only water on earth, according to the Maidu-people. There was no fast land, no vegetation, no animals and no humans - only water, and the gods Kodoyanpe and Coyote floated around on top of the water. One day the Gods decided to invent the fast land and everything that is in it. Then they created the Humans ... but with time men med tiden blev mšnniskorna fŲr mŚnga.

Kodoyanpe Turned to the Coyote. "What shall we do?" he asked. "We have created too many people on this earth. Soon there will be no more room."

"We can stop them from making more children", suggested the Coyote. He doesnít care about people in the same way as the Kodoyanpe.

"No, that would be wrong", said Kodoyanpe. "Children give luck and happiness to the tribes and hope for the future.

"What do you think about death then?" again suggesting the Coyote.

Do you mean that people shall die the same way as the animals and plants?" wondered Kodoyanpe. "That seems very cruel."

"It would solve the problem of becoming too many", said the Coyote. The question didnít disturb him at all.

"But that would make everybody unhappy", protested Kodoyanpe. "They would miss their loved ones so much."

"They would get use to it", answer the Coyote back fast. Kodoyanpe seemed to care about these people, Seeing this the Coyote enjoyed playing the opposite. He didnít like when Kodoyanpe always got what he wanted.

"I have a dream", said Kodoyanpe. "Think if they should come back to life after awhile and change places with he next group that were in line to die?" Showing a wide smile on his face.

"No, said the Coyote. "Death must mean the end for the person. There can not be any return."

According to a legend that Caddo-tribe told - a tribe that lives far from the Maidu people - the Coyote didnít get as he wished. It was decided that when a person dies, they would rest in a special house built by the highest ranking shaman, until it was time to wake up again and return to his tribe and family. So one day the first man died - a man - and his spirit was taken away by a whirl wind to the Shamanís house.

But the Coyote didnít want to hear this. Protected by the nights darkness, he turned into a evil wolf, the ones we call Coyote after him. He walked through the door to the house where the dead should rest and stood guard.
When the dead mans spirit came up to the house, the doorway was blocked by the evil wolf and was afraid to go in. So instead of resting a while and waking up to life again, the deadīs spirit was forced to night walk and search through heaven looking for the ladder to the land of the spirits. When the spirit found the ladder he entered the land and there was no way back out... and so it has been ever since.

But according to the Maidu people, the Coyote got what he wanted in a much easier way. He argued and fought with Kodoyanpe until the God-brother gave up and accepted the proposal, that the people would not wake up after death again. At any rate, in both of the legends the Coyote won, and death really became the end of life for the people.

Kodoyanpe and Coyote lived amongst the humans. Kodoyanpe had always loved the people he made, but the Coyote had never understood the meaning - not until he had his own son. The Coyote loved his little boy more than he thought was possible, so he became completely saddened when the boy was bitten by a snake.

"I am dying father", said the boy. "I can feel the poison in my veins. Help me!" The Coyote picked up the boy and hurried to the highest Shaman. "You must help me", begged the Coyote. "He has been bitten by a snake."

The Shaman looked at him sadly. "Powerful Coyote, you are a God and still can not do anything!" he said. "How can you believe that I - normal deadly can do something that you canít?"

"But you must try", said the Coyote, and putting the boy in the arms of the Shaman. "You are a medicine man. "The Shaman looked down at the boyís lifeless body. "I am sorry, Coyote", said the shaman. "Neither of us can do anything now. Your child is already on his journey to the land of the spirits.

The Coyote threw his head back and howled like a raged prairie wolf. "Is there no one who can save my son?" cried the Coyote.

He then left to look for Kodoyanpe, and when he found him, he pleaded:"Kodoyanpe, I was wrong! Death must not be the end for everyone. Help me to bring back my son again. I can not take it being separated from my son."

The Kodoyampe looked at the Coyote and the lifeless boy in his arms. It hurt him not being able to help him, but death means the end of life, it was the Coyote himself that made it this way.

"I am sorry", said the Kodoyanpe, and he really was because he hated to see anyone suffering of sorrow, "but what was done is done. We can not undo it. Death is for eternity."

The Coyote began howling again. "can not change it or wonít change it?" screamed the Coyote.

His voice turned into a scary angry sound and he changed shape into a prairie wolf again.

"Be sad for you son but do not be angry.", advised Kodoyanpe him. "Donít forget that it was you who wanted it to end this way!"

After his sonís death and pains of guilt and anger, the Coyote roamed the earth in his new formation.

With time Kodoyampe patience with the Coyote ended and he warned the people about the Coyote, his Gods brothers.

"Kill him if you find him", he ordered. "Even though the thought of killing him is very uncomfortable, we will never be able to get rid of the evil as long as the Coyote remains on Earth."

After many attempts of hunting down the Coyote a group of people chased the Coyote up on a little island, where there was no food and they surrounded the island with their canoes.

"We have captured him", said one.

"Now you can not escape", said yet another. "We will stave you, so that you will die of hunger..."

"Or we will kill him when he tries to escape.", said the first. "In any case it will be the end of evil in the world."

But the Coyote was too smart for them. When the evening came he turned into dim and blew with the wind from the island. When he got away, he screamed out his victory howl, and the people understood that the Coyote managed to escape from them.

When Kodoyanpe saw that the people were near breakdown, he told them to build a giant canoe, big enough for everyone to get in. When they all got on board, Kodonyampe let the earth be flooded in hope to drown the Coyote... but the Coyote had dressed himself and got on board together with the people.

When the great canoe went passed a mountain top - the only piece of earth that was not flooded - the Coyote jumped off the canoe and onto the mountain which is the reason for the name the Maidu people gave the mountain, the Canoe Hill.

"This mountain belongs to me now", said the Coyote and again changed back into the gestalt of the prairie wolf.

Kodoyampe was forced to give up. He didnít have any possibility save the world from his clever brother.

That is why the Coyote continues to exist in the wilderness and the reason for evil still in this world.