Native American Legends
Creation of Man
A Miwok Legend
After Coyote had completed making the world, he began to think
about creating man. He called a council of all the animals. The
animals sat in a circle, just as the Indians do, with Lion at the
head, in an open space in the forest.
On Lion's right was Grizzly Bear; next Cinnamon Bear; and so on
to Mouse, who sat at Lion's left.
Lion spoke first. Lion said he wished man to have a terrible voice,
like himself, so that he could frighten all animals. He wanted man
also to be well covered with hair, with fangs in his claws, and
very strong teeth.
Grizzly Bear laughed. He said it was ridiculous for any one to
have such a voice as Lion, because when he roared he frightened
away the very prey for which he was searching. But he said man should
have very great strength; that he should move silently, but very
swiftly; and he should be able to seize his prey without noise.
Buck said man would look foolish without antlers. And a terrible
voice was absurd, but man should have ears like a spider's web,
and eyes like fire.
Mountain Sheep said the branching antlers would bother man if he
got caught in a thicket. If man had horns rolled up, so that they
were like a stone on each side of his head, it would give his head
weight enough to butt very hard.
When it came Coyote's turn, he said the other animals were foolish
because they each wanted man to be just like themselves. Coyote
was sure he could make a man who would look better than Coyote himself,
or any other animal. Of course he would have to have four legs,
with five fingers. Man should have a strong voice, but he need not
roar all the time with it.
And he should have feet nearly like Grizzly Bear's, because he
could then stand erect when he needed to. Grizzly Bear had no tail,
and man should not have any. The eyes and ears of Buck were good,
and perhaps man should have those.
Then there was Fish, which had no hair, and hair was a burden much
of the year. So Coyote thought man should not wear fur. And his
claws should be as long as the Eagle's, so that he could hold things
in them. But no animal was as cunning and crafty as Coyote, so man
should have the wit of Coyote.
Then Beaver talked. Beaver said man would have to have a tail,
but it should be broad and flat, so he could haul mud and sand on
it. Not a furry tail, because they were troublesome on account of
Owl said man would be useless without wings.
But Mole said wings would be folly. Man would be sure to bump against
the sky. Besides, if he had wings and eyes both, he would get his
eyes burned out by flying too near the sun. But without eyes, he
could burrow in the soft, cool earth where he could be happy.
Mouse said man needed eyes so he could see what he was eating.
And nobody wanted to burrow in the damp earth. So the council broke
up in a quarrel.
Then every animal set to work to make a man according to his own
ideas. Each one took a lump of earth and modeled it just like himself.
All but Coyote, for Coyote began to make the kind of man he had
talked of in the council.
It was late when the animals stopped work and fell asleep. All
but Coyote, for Coyote was the most cunning of all the animals,
and he stayed awake until he had finished his model. He worked hard
all night. When the other animals were fast asleep he threw water
on the lumps of earth, and so spoiled the models of the other animals.
But in the morning he finished his own, and gave it life long before
the others could finish theirs. Thus man was made by Coyote.
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