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Coyote creates the Earth

A Yinnuwok Legend

Long ago there was no earth, only water. Coyote was floating around on a small raft when he met the ducks. They were the only other creatures. "My brothers," he said, "there is no one else around. It is no good to be alone like this. You must get me some earth so I can make things right." He turned to the red-headed mallard. "Dive beneath this water and try to bring up some earth. We’ll use it as a means of living."

The red-headed mallard dived. He remained down for a long time but came up without bringing any earth. Coyote turned to the pinto duck, "I sent the older one, but he was not able to get any earth. Now I will let you try."

The pinto duck came up after a long time and said, "My brother, I was not able to get any."

"How is that? I thought surely you would bring some."

Then Coyote asked a smaller, blue-feathered duck to dive. "If you do not bring up any, we will have no land to live on."

He dived down, but he came up with no earth. Coyote did not know what to do. Then the grebe spoke up. "My older brother, you should have asked me to go before you asked these others. The are my superiors, but they are helpless." He took his turn diving and stayed down a long time.

When he came up Coyote said, "What sort of luck did you have?"

"I have brought some." He had a little dirt between his webbed feet.

Coyote said, "To every undertaking there are always four trials. You have achieved it." Then he took the mud and said, "I will make this into the earth. You will live in the ponds and streams and multiply there where you can build your nests. Now, I an going to make this earth."

Coyote took the mud in his hand and he started in the east. "I will make it large so we have plenty of room."

As he traveled along he spread the mud around and made the earth. He traveled like this for a long time going toward the west. When he had finished he said, "Now that we have this earth, there are some things that want to be here." They heard a wolf howling. "Already there is one howling," said Coyote. He pointed toward the Sun, which was going down, and said, "Listen, there is another one out there now." It was a coyote. "That coyote has attained life by his own powers," said Coyote. "He is great." Then they all went for a walk.

Out on the plains they saw some shining objects. When they got up close they saw that theses were medicine stones. "This is part of the earth," said Coyote, picking up one of the stones which looked like a buffalo, "There shall be stones like this everywhere. They are separate beings." When they had gone on some way they saw a person standing near a hill. "Look." said Coyote, "there is a human being. He is one of the Stars, but now he is down here standing on the ground. Let’s go look at him." When they got up close, the star-person changed himself into a plant. It was the tobacco plant. There were no other plants around at the time. It was the first.

Coyote said, "From now on all people will have this plant, take it in the spring and raise it. It is the Stars up above that have come down like this. They will take care of the people. Take care of this plant. It will be the means of your living. Use it in dancing. When you plant it in the spring, sing this song: Female comrade, the earth, where shall I plant it?" After that , Coyote found there was no grass. "This is no good." He made it. "Let us make some mountains, hills and trees." He made them all. He saw there were no fish in the creeks, so he put some there. This is the way he started the whole thing.

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