White Mountain Apache - Coyote Steals Abert Squirrel's Fire
Long ago everybody did not have fire, only a few. Abert Squirrel was chief of the fire owners. The others of his band were Raven, Turkey, Buzzard, Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, and all the other hawk-like birds. This band, with Abert Squirrel as their chief, were the only ones who had any fire. They kept it up in the tops of the pine trees and would not let anyone else have any. To this day Abert Squirrel has brown markings along his sides. He got these from lying close by the fire when they used to keep it up in the pine trees.
Those other people who did not have any fire were too cold all the time and they needed fire. Slim Coyote was one of those who had no fire. One day Slim Coyote decided to get some fire. He came to the bottom of the big tree in which Abert Squirrel was living. He gave Abert Squirrel 'ilgac (used witch power on him) and made him very sick. He lay on the ground. Abert Squirrel was pretty sick from Coyote's 'ilgac. Then Coyote called up to Abert Squirrel's band in the trees, "Here is your chief lying sick. He is a very smart and good man; why don't you come down here and make a dance for him to cure him ?" Abert Squirrel's band said, "That is a good idea. We will make a dance to cure our chief," and they all came down and started gathering a lot of wood for a big fire. Just before they started the fire. Slim Coyote went off and got a bunch of dry inner bark. This he tied under his tail and came back to where they were giving the dance. All the people who did not have fire were there to see the dance also, but Abert Squirrel's band would not let them come anywhere near the fire. Then they started to dance. There were thirty-two of the fire people dancing around the fire in a circle. They made all the people who did not have a fire stand back. If any sparks blew away from the fire, the fire people would reach out, catch them, and put them back in the fire. Coyote tried to go out and dance near the fire, but they made him get back.
Then the fire people said to one another that as long as Slim Coyote was the one to suggest the dance for Squirrel, it would be all right for him to dance close to the fire. "All right, come and dance!" they called to Coyote, but they made the rest of the crowd move back. Slim Coyote started to dance around the fire. As he danced, he sang, "I dance back and forth beside the fire." He kept on dancing around the fire, very close to it. Pretty soon he stuck his tail in the fire. "Look out, you'll bum your tail!" said the fire people. "My tail won't bum," said Coyote, and he kept on singing and dancing with his tail near the fire. "Your tail is on fire," said the fire people. Slim Coyote looked around and saw his tail on fire. He gave a big jump over the fire people. They tried to catch him.
He jumped over them. Then he gave a great leap and jumped over everybody and started to run away. The fire people chased him. As Slim Coyote ran he shook his tail from side to side and set fire to the dry grass and brush and pine needles. Some of the fire people stopped to try and put these ground fires out. The others kept after Coyote. Pretty soon Slim Coyote gave out, and he said to Poor Will, who was one of those who had no fire, "Take the fire and keep on going, my cross-cousin." Poor-Will took it and flew away. The fire people chased him now. As he flew he went from side to side, setting more brush and dry grass on fire. Then the grass and brush was burning all around. The fire people were flying away and scattering. Slim Coyote stood there looking at the fire. It was crawling along the ground like snakes, spreading everywhere. This is how fire was first obtained.
also called "Abert Squirrel Angry about Fire" White Mountain Apache
Told by Francis Drake Taken from Myths and Tales of the White Mountain Apache by Grenville Goodwin, 1934