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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Coyote Rides A Star
by A Klamath legend Retold by Jane Louise Curry, 1987

The animal people celebrated the return of the salmon with a feast more splendid than any they had ever had before. Though often they thought Coyote a great nuisance, they had to admit that he knew how to use his wits. At the feast-after much arguing-they even gave him the place of honor next to Eagle, their chief.

Harry Fonseca's "When Coyote Leaves The Reservation
(a portrait of the artist as a young Coyote)"

Coyote was full of himself. "Who in the World is more clever than Coyote?" he thought as he made his way home from the feast by starlight. "Who else could have snatched the Sun? Or sniffed out the stolen salmon? With my brains, I should be chief, not Eagle. I should have the best seat at the feast, and be served first. I, Ki-yoo the Coyote, should be honored above all others!"

Coyote gave a proud toss of his head, and as he did so, he spied the stars glittering in the dark sky above. A shooting star streaked overhead.

"Hai! How beautiful!" Coyote exclaimed. And suddenly he knew what he wanted most in the world to do.

"I want to ride on a star," said he. "Even Mouse and Measuring Worm, the least of the animal people, can walk around on the earth. I, Coyote, should have a better way of going. And I shall! I shall take a journey on a star."

So Coyote climbed to the top of the nearest hill, lifted his nose to the sky, and howled up at the Evening Star. "Hai, Bright Star!" he called. "Come down here to me. I am going to take a ride on your back."

But the Evening Star did not obey. It barely blinked as it moved along its sky path.

"Ho! Are you hard of hearing, old Star?" cried Coyote. "I am Coyote-the Great Coyote, Sun-Snatcher and Fish-Finder. I have saved my people from darkness and cold and hunger, and now I wish to see all the World. Come down here so that I may jump onto your back."

Coyote Chasing Rabbit 1941 Painting by Tahoma, Quincy

The Evening Star smiled, but kept on its way without a word. In a little while it was gone.

But Coyote was not one to give up so easily.

At sundown the next day Coyote climbed to the same hilltop and called as he had called before.


Bright Star! Come down here to me so that I may jump onto your back."

This time the Evening Star, seeing that Coyote was in earnest, answered in a thin silvery voice. "Be content with your four feet, Ki-yoo the Coyote," it called. "Your place is on the earth. You may be a Great One among the animal folk, but you could not stand the speed of the stars."

But Coyote would not be put off. Each day at nightfall he returned and howled and yowled. whined and whispered and blustered and begged until at last Evening Star grew tired of listening.

"Enough, enough!" it said one night in a voice more sharp than silvery. "Jump on before I change my mind."

Evening Star slid down the sky, barely slowing as it skimmed past the hilltop, and then soared upward once more. Coyote gave a great jump, catching hold with his front paws, and almost slid off. "Hai, yi, yi!" he cried, but the sound whirled away in the star-wind. Evening Star flew so fast that poor Coyote could not haul himself up to crouch upon its back. It took all of his strength just to hold on.

Evening Star flew up and up and up, and then north over lands of ice and snow. The sharp star-wind grew bitter cold. Coyote's paws grew cold,' then stiff, then numb, until he could hold on no longer. Letting go, he fell, head over feet over tail, back to earth.

He was a long time falling. Ten snows passed, some say. And when he came at last to earth, his landing was so hard that he was-say some-flattened out as thin as an acorn cake. Certainly, from that day to this he has been thin. And every day to this day, he climbs at nightfall to the top of the nearest hill and scolds the Evening Star.

Back in the Beforetime: Tales of the California Indians [the Klamath River region in the north to the inland desert mountains and the southern coastlands] From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories.

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