Peter Blue Cloud
Coyote makes the First People
Coyote stopped to drink at a big lake and saw his reflection. “Now there’s a really good-looking coyote,” he said, leaning farther over.
And of course he fell in. And of course you will think this is a take-off on an old theme.
But what happened was, he drank up the whole lake to keep from drowning. And because he didn’t really like the taste of certain fish, he spat them out. And because he felt sorry when he saw them flopping around, he sang a song to give them legs.
“Maybe they’ll become the first people,” Coyote mused aloud.
“Oh no you don’t,” said the headman of that tribe of fish, “if it’s all the same with you, could you just put us back where we were? And could you please take away these stupid legs?”
So Coyote regurgitated the lake and put everything back the way it was.
Again he saw his reflection and said, “Okay, you’re pretty good-looking, but are you smart? I’ve been trying to make the first people for a long time now, but nothing wants to be people. So, what do I do – huh – can you tell me?”
His reflection studied him for a long time, then it squatted and dropped a big turd.
“Okay,” said Coyote, “I guess that’s as good an answer as any.”
Then he himself squatted and began to fashion the first people…
Three dried stems of grass. A horizontally branching twig of bittersweet. A single, tiny, hand-like bit of cedar bough found upon the ground.
How to place their stems within the narrow neck of a delicate, ceramic vessel?
Ah, good…But no, perhaps I should break one of the grass stems, to give a sharp downward angle, to balance the bittersweet.
But that’s manipulation, isn’t it? Well – so’s picking them in the first place.
“We’re out of kindling,” Coyote Woman said.
Hm, cedar kindling sure makes a nice, smooth, splintering, creaking, tearing-like-jerky noise as the axe penetrates. If I close my eyes I can daydream the sound into scenes and sensations and imagine all kinds of… …
Yes, Coyote is even like this, sometimes.
Coyote, Coyote, Please Tell Me
– What is a shaman?
A shaman I don’t know
I’m a doctor, myself.
When I use medicine,
it’s between me,
and the Creation.
Coyote, Coyote, please tell me – what is power?
It is said that power
is the ability to start
with one pull.
Coyote, Coyote, please tell me – what is magic?
Magic is the first taste
of ripe strawberries, and
magic is a child dancing
in a summer’s rain.
Coyote, Coyote, please tell me – why is Creation?
Creation is because I
went to sleep last night
with a full stomach,
and when I woke up
everything was here.
Coyote, Coyote, please tell me who you belong to?
According to the latest
survey, there are certain
persons who, in poetic
or scholarly guise,
have claimed me like
a conqueror’s prize.
Let me just say
once and for all,
just to be done:
Coyote, he belongs to none.
Elderberry Flute Song
He was sitting there on a stone
at world’s end,
all was calm and Creation was
There was a harmony and a wholeness
and peace was a warming breeze
given by the sun.
The sea rose and fell
in the rhythm of his mind,
and stars were points of thought
which led to reason.
The universe turned in the vastness
of space like a dream,
a dream given once and carried
forever as memory.
He raised the flute to lips
sweetened by springtime
and slowly played a note
which hung for many seasons
And Creation was content
in the knowledge of music.
The singular note drifted
far and away
in the mind of Creation,
to become a tiny roundness.
And this roundness stirred
to open new born eyes
and gazed with wonder
at its own birth.
Then note followed note
in a melody which wove
the fabric of first life.
The sun gave warmth
to waiting seedlings,
and thus were born
the vast multitudes
from the song
of a flute.
The Coyote (“Canis latrans”) is related to the domestic dog, the wolf, and the fox – and based upon its proven adaptability to human settlement is one of the most reviled – and admired – North American animals of the last century-and-a-half.
And then there is Coyote…
Coyote can be Trickster, Fool, Clown – and even The Creator – in Native mythologies of North America.
Often anthropomorphic, he is energetic, slyly resourceful, full of himself, goofy, embarrassing, a total liar and completely honest.
Coyote has been compared to Prometheus in Greek mythology and Anansi in the Ashanti mythology of Ghana.
But how about the Irish Leprechaun — or Bugs Bunny ? They share a lot in common with Coyote, too.
Encounters with Coyote are often spiritually transformative for Human Beings – and he himself is neither dog nor wolf nor fox but a synthesis-in-progress, with Us thrown in just to keep it weird. Life Lessons plus earthy humour – these are Coyote’s “story”.
Peter Blue Cloud (Aroniawenrate) (1935 – 2011)
was a Mohawk poet and short-story-teller – of the Turtle Clan – born in Kahnawake, Mohawk Territory, (Québec, Canada).
He travelled to the west coast of the USA where he spent years as an iron-worker, logger and ranch-hand.
He participated in the craziness of Beat and Hippy cultures in the California of the early 1960s through the mid- ‘70s – learning from those amorphous “movements” yet distancing himself from their excessive self-absorption. Spending time with Maidu Elders in California, he was strengthened by their wisdom and their stories.
In 1972 his history of the 1969 Native “Occupation” of the former Alcatraz Prison/Island – “Alcatraz is not an Island” – was published. In 1975-76 – and again from 1983-85 – he wrote for and edited Akwesasne Notes, a Native journal published out of Akwesasne, New York.
He was a recipient of the American Book Award in 1981 – chosen by other writers.