Native American Legends
Yellow Jacket and Ant
A Nez Perce Legend
Envy will cause good friends to become enemies. Ant was jealous
of Yellow Jacket eating salmon, even though he himself had as much
food and comforts of living. Ant invaded his neighbor's privacy
and destroyed their friendship. Because neither would listen to
his warning, Coyote turned them both into stone as an example for
the Human Beings who were coming.
The Yellow Jackets and the Ants all lived together on the hillside
about ten miles above Tse-me-na-kem (Lewiston, Idaho). on the Clearwater
River. The two families were quite friendly, although every once
in a while members would get into an argument , which is no more
There was quite a bit of jealousy between the Chief of the Yellow
Jackets and the Chief of the Ants. This was not real hatred, but
each saw to it that his rights were not harmed. On the whole, the
two bosses got along pretty well, considering their gossiping wives
and their many children.
Chief Yellow Jacket was used to eating his meals on top of a certain
rock, and he liked dried salmon the best. One day, he was seated
on this rock, calmly eating a big dish of dried salmon which his
wife had set before him.
Along came Chief Ant, and seeing Chief Yellow Jacket calmly eating
his dinner, he became very angry. It is true that there were other
rocks around for him to use, and he could have had dried salmon
if he wished, but the sight of Chief Yellow Jacket ma de him very
angry. "Hey there, you Yellow Jacket," he shouted at him,
"What are you doing on the rock? I have as much right there
as you. You can't eat there without asking me."
Chief Yellow Jacket looked up in surprise. "Why, Ant, what
are you shouting about? I have always eaten my dinner on this rock."
"That makes no difference," said the Ant. "Why didn't
you ask me about it?"
Yellow Jacket had by this time become very angry too. He rattled
his wings and snapped his legs and yelled, "None of your business,
you little runt."
"Don't call me a runt," shouted Ant. "Nobody can
insult me that way."
So saying that, Ant climbed up the side of the rock, and he and
Yellow Jacket began to fight all over it. They fought face to face,
and with arms locked about each other, they reared up on their hind
legs, biting and poking for all they were worth.
Suddenly a great voice boomed out, "Here, you Ant and Yellow
Jacket, stop that fighting."
It was Coyote, who happened to be passing down on the other side
of the river. He had seen them struggling, but neither of them heard
him because they were too busy fighting.
Again Coyote shouted, "You, Ant, and you, Yellow Jacket, I
order you to stop fighting. My subjects cannot fight. There is plenty
of room and plenty of food for all of us, so why be foolish?"
This time they heard, but neither of them would stop. A third time
Coyote warned them, "This is the last time. I'm going to tell
you now. Stop fighting or I shall turn you both into stone. You
will no longer be great, for the La-te-tel-wit (Human Beings) are
They paid no heed, so Coyote used his magic medicine, waved his
paws, and just as Ant and Yellow Jacket were arched together, Coyote
turned them to stone.
To this day they remain for all to see, locked in each others arms
on top of the big rock where Yellow Jacket ate his meals, but which
became a battle ground because of greed.
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