Native Village 
Youth and Education News

September 1, 2012

Coyotes are Native American symbols against arrogance
by Margaret Jarek, Fond du Lac Chippewa
http://www.fdlreporter.com/

In the culture of the first Americans, coyotes were seen as the “tricksters.” Perhaps that was the source of Looney Tunes’ “Wile E. Coyote” character.

But in their roles as the tricksters, coyotes were no fools. In fact, a coyote’s cultural role was predicated on teaching the two-leggeds a couple of life lessons which could very well determine survival.

The first lesson taught by this entity, is to never make quick assumptions about anything. Nothing is ever quite what it first appears to be and often what we think we know for certain, is seldom as certain as we think; illusions abound.

The coyote trickster took great delight in pricking open the balloon of pride and in shattering one of humanity’s single greatest illusions — arrogant superiority.

It was said that a coyote could dress up in human disguises and walk among us. When a point was brought home to some overly-confident or prideful human, the coyote could be observed back in animal form, loping away with a sly grin on his face.

I once met a man who told a story about such an encounter he experienced. It made a terrific story but my psyche is so awash in western skepticism that I found it difficult to believe. And yet who is to say the trickster doesn’t on occasion invade our modern world just to let us know we may not be as bright as we like to think?

The lesson the story delivers is the lesson it has always delivered — don’t be so sure you are right.

Like the court jesters of old, the trickster forces us to take a second look at ourselves. Even kings have flaws and the wisest among us knows that it is prudent to never take ourselves too seriously. It does us all a world of good to laugh at ourselves from time-to-time.

While coyote as trickster is a metaphor in Native American culture, every culture contains symbols that convey the same message.

Arrogance, pride and over-confidence will never serve our best interests. They are flaws that can and no doubt will cause us to take a prat fall. What’s more, they are among our most reprehensible behaviors and can lead to all sorts of negative conduct.

Anyone of us can on occasion make a fool of ourselves. But when we do so, rest assured that coyote, in one form or another, will be seen loping away into the shadows with a very satisfied gleam in his eyes, having found a way in which to bring his point home by showing us the error of our foolish pride.

 

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