Native American Legends
Coyote and the Rattlesnake
A Sia Legend
Coyote's house was not far from Rattlesnake's home. One morning
when they were out walking together, Coyote said to Rattlesnake,
"Tomorrow come to my house."
In the morning Rattlesnake went to Coyote's house. He moved slowly
along the floor, shaking his rattle. Coyote sat at one side, very
much frightened. The movements of the snake and the rattle frightened
him. Coyote had a pot of rabbit meat on the fire, which he placed
in front of the snake, saying, "Companion, eat."
"I will not eat your meat. I do not understand your food,"
"What food do you eat?"
"I eat the yellow flowers of the corn."
Coyote at once began to search for the yellow corn flowers. When
he found some, Rattlesnake said,
"Put some on top of my head so that I may eat it."
Coyote stood as far off as he could and placed the pollen on the
The snake said, "Come nearer and put enough on my head so
that I may find it."
Coyote was very much afraid, but after a while he came nearer and
did as he was told.
Then the snake went away, saying,
"Companion, tomorrow you come to my house."
"All right," said Coyote. Tomorrow I will come."
Coyote sat down and thought about tomorrow. He thought a good deal
about what the snake might do. So he made a small rattle by placing
tiny pebbles in a gourd and fastened it to the end of his tail.
He shook it a while and was much pleased with it.
The next morning he started for the snake's house. He shook the
rattle on the end of his tail and smiled, and said to himself,
"This is good. When I go into Rattlesnake's house, he will
be very much afraid of me."
Coyote did not walk into Snake's house, but moved like a snake.
But Coyote could not shake his rattle as the snake shook his. He
had to hold it in his hand. But when he shook his rattle, the snake
seemed much afraid, and said,
"Companion, I am afraid of you."
Now Rattlesnake had a stew of rats on the fire, and he placed some
before Coyote. But Coyote said,
"I do not understand your food. I cannot eat it because I
do not understand it."
Rattlesnake insisted upon his eating, but Coyote refused. He said,
"If you put some of the flower of the corn on my head, I will
eat. I understand that food."
The snake took some corn pollen, but he pretended to be afraid
of Coyote and stood off some distance. Coyote said,
"Come nearer and place it on top my head."
Snake replied, "I am afraid of you."
Coyote said, "Come nearer. I am not bad."
Then the snake came closer and put the pollen on top of Coyote's
But Coyote did not have the long tongue of the snake and he could
not get the pollen off the top of his head. He put out his tongue
first on one side of his nose and then on the other, but he could
only reach to the side of his nose.
His efforts made the snake laugh, but the snake put his hand over
his mouth so Coyote should not see him laugh. Really, the snake
hid his head in his body.
At last Coyote went home. As he left the snake's house, he held
his tail in his hand and shook the rattle.
Snake cried, "Oh, companion! I am so afraid of you!"
but really the snake shook with laughter.
When Coyote reached his home he said to himself,
"I was such a fool. Rattlesnake had much food to eat and I
would not take it. Now I am very hungry."
Then he went out in search of food.
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