Native American Legends
Coyote Places The Stars
A Wasco Legend
One time there were five wolves, all brothers, who traveled together.
Whatever meat they got when they were hunting they would share with
One evening Coyote saw the wolves looking up at the sky. "What
are you looking at up there, my brothers?" asked Coyote. "Oh,
nothing," said the oldest wolf.
Next evening Coyote saw they were all looking up in the sky at
something. He asked the next oldest wolf what they were looking
at, but he wouldn't say.
It went on like this for three or four nights. No one wanted to
tell Coyote what they were looking at because they thought he would
want to interfere. One night Coyote asked the youngest wolf brother
to tell him, and the youngest wolf said to the other wolves, "Let's
tell Coyote what we see up there. He won't do anything."
So they told him. "We see two animals up there. Way up there,
where we cannot get to them."
"Let's go up and see them," said Coyote.
"Well, how can we do that?"
"Oh, I can do that easy," said Coyote. "I can show
you how to get up there without any trouble at all."
Coyote gathered a great number of arrows and then began shooting
them into the sky. The first arrow stuck in the sky and the second
arrow stuck in the first. Each arrow stuck in the end of the one
before it like that until there was a ladder reaching down to the
earth. "We can climb up now," said Coyote.
The oldest wolf took his dog with him, and then the other four
wolf brothers came, and then Coyote. They climbed all day and into
the night. All the next day they climbed. For many days and nights
they climbed, until finally they reached the sky. They stood in
the sky and looked over at the two animals the wolves had seen from
below. They were two grizzly bears.
"Don't go near them," said Coyote. "They will tear
you apart." But the two youngest wolves were already headed
over. And the next two youngest wolves followed them. Only the oldest
wolf held back. The wolves sat down and looked at the bears, and
the bears sat there looking at the wolves. The oldest wolf, when
he saw it was safe, came over with his dog and sat down with them.
Coyote wouldn't come over. He didn't trust the bears. "That
makes a nice picture, though," thought Coyote. "They all
look pretty good sitting there like that. I think I'll leave it
that way for everyone to see. Then when people look at them in the
sky they will say, 'There's a story about that picture,' and they
will tell a story about me."
So Coyote left it that way. He took out the arrows as he descended
so there was no way for anyone to get back. From down on the earth
Coyote admired the arrangement he had left up there.
Today they still look the same. They call those stars Big Dipper
now. If you look up there you'll see that three wolves make up the
handle and the oldest wolf, the one in the middle, still has his
dog with him. The two youngest wolves make up the part of the bowl
under the handle, and the two grizzlies make up the other side,
the one that points toward the North Star.
When Coyote saw how they looked, he wanted to put up a lot of stars.
He arranged stars all over the sky in pictures and then made the
Big Road across the sky with the stars he had left over.
When Coyote was finished he called Meadowlark over. "My brother,"
he said, "When I am gone, tell everyone that when they look
up into the sky and see the stars arranged this way, I was the one
who did that. That is my work."
Now Meadowlark tells that story about Coyote.
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