Native American Legends
Coyote and Porcupine
A Nez Perce Legend
Once Porcupine was going along the river bank looking for food.
Soon he saw some fine, fat buffalo, ten of them, just across the
river. Then Porcupine wanted to get across the river, but could
not. After some thought he called to the buffalo to stand in line.
This was so that he could tell which one was the fattest. Then he
picked out the fattest one and told him to swim across the river.
When this buffalo came up to Porcupine, he asked Porcupine where
he wanted to sit, on his back or on his tail. Porcupine answered,
"I would rather be under your forelegs, so I shall not drown."
The buffalo agreed. When they were nearly across, Porcupine struck
the buffalo under the foreleg with a large knife. So he killed that
buffalo, but the others ran away.
Porcupine was looking for something with which to sharpen his knife.
He was singing, "I wish I could find something with which to
sharpen my knife, for I haven't had any fat buffalo yet." Now,
Coyote happened to be going by and he heard Porcupine singing. Coyote
came up to him and Porcupine was afraid. Coyote asked him what he
was singing, and Porcupine answered, "I was not singing anything,
I was just saying I wish I had some string for my moccasin."
Coyote said, "No, you did not say that; I heard what you said."
Porcupine said nothing more; so Coyote told him what he had killed.
Coyote said, "Now, I have a sharp knife, so I can help you."
Then Coyote said, "Let us try jumping over the buffalo; the
one who jumps over may have it all. I'll try first." Coyote
succeeded, but Porcupine did not, so Coyote got all the meat. Then
Coyote took his sharp knife and cut Porcupine's head, but did not
Now, Coyote had some children: one of them was with him, and the
rest were at home. Coyote said to his child, "I am going after
the other children. You watch the old Porcupine, and if he gets
up you call me and I will come back and kill him." When Coyote
was gone, Porcupine got up. The young Coyote cried, "Father,
Porcupine is up." Then Coyote hurried back and asked his baby
what the matter was. The child said, "He was trying to take
some of the buffalo meat, but now he is quiet again." Coyote
started off a second time.
When he was a great way off Porcupine got up. The child called
his father, but this time in vain. Porcupine struck the young Coyote
with a stone and killed him. Then he set the child up under a tree
and stuffed his mouth full of buffalo fat. Then Porcupine took all
the meat to the top of a tree and watched for Coyote and his family
When Coyote with his wife and children had come up close, Coyote
said to the children, "Look at your brother; he is eating and
having a great time." But when they arrived they saw that the
baby was killed and had his mouth stuffed with fat. Then Coyote
was very angry. He wondered where Porcupine had gone. When Coyote
looked up he saw Porcupine sitting in a tall tree laughing. Coyote
said, "Please come down"; but Porcupine answered, "I
do not like you because you are trying to cheat me out of my buffalo
meat." Coyote said, "Just give us a little piece of fat
or meat." Then Porcupine told Coyote and his family to all
stand together under the tree. They did this. Then Porcupine dropped
the buffalo head down on them and they were all killed.
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