The Trickster Coyote

The Trickster Coyote: A Legend from Native American Lore


7/22/20232 min read

The Trickster Coyote: A Legend from Native American Lore
The Trickster Coyote: A Legend from Native American Lore

The Trickster Coyote: A Legend from Native American Lore

Coyote is a key character in Native American mythology, renowned for his cunning, deception, and humor. While the specific narratives and interpretations vary greatly across tribes and regions, Coyote often appears as a trickster, a transformer, or both. This creature's tales, whether humorous or profound, help explain the world's creation, the nuances of social interaction, and the consequences of disobedience.

Historical Background

The Coyote appears prominently in the myths and legends of many Native American cultures, especially those in the Southwest, Plains, and Anasazi. The character embodies the contradictions of human nature—Coyote can be a hero one moment, helping to shape the world, and a selfish trickster the next, causing disorder and chaos.

The Trickster Coyote

The figure of the Trickster Coyote is found across a variety of stories, exhibiting a range of characteristics. Coyote's reputation as a trickster comes from his frequent display of cunning, deceit, and mischief. He often plays pranks on other animals or seeks to fool them to get what he wants. Sometimes, his tricks backfire, and he ends up suffering the consequences of his actions, providing a moral lesson.

An example of such a story is The Coyote and the Columbia, a legend from the Wasco tribe. In this tale, Coyote attempts to catch the Salmon Chief's daughter for a wife. Despite his numerous tricks and strategies, he repeatedly fails, eventually turning into a pine tree out of shame. His failure serves as a lesson against greed and selfishness.

The Transformer Coyote

In many Native American cultures, Coyote is also portrayed as a creator or a transformer. In these tales, Coyote often helps to shape the world and its inhabitants, bestowing gifts and imparting crucial knowledge to humanity.

One of the most prominent stories is that of the Nez Perce tribe, where the Coyote plays a central role in the creation of the earth. He battles monsters, shapes the landscape, and even helps humanity discover fire.

Coyote in Contemporary Culture

Today, the figure of the Coyote continues to be an important symbol in Native American culture, often representing survival, resilience, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Furthermore, Coyote's stories continue to be told, reminding audiences of moral and cultural teachings.


The Trickster Coyote, one of the most enduring characters in Native American mythology, serves as a symbol of the complexity and paradox of human nature. With his many faces - the hero, the fool, the creator - Coyote embodies the multifaceted aspects of existence, instructing us through his tales about the world's mysteries and life's lessons.


  1. Erdoes, Richard, and Alfonso Ortiz, editors. "American Indian Trickster Tales." Viking, 1998.

  2. Bright, William. "A Coyote Reader." The University of California Press, 1993.

  3. Toelken, Barre. "The Ballad of Joshua Sloan, or Who's Afraid of a Virgin Coyote?" Western Folklore, vol. 64, no. 1/2, 2005, pp. 57–81. JSTOR,

  4. Reichard, Gladys A. "Coyote Stories." University of Nebraska Press, 1990.