Coyote Creates Human Beings

According to the Nez Perce legend, a long time ago, a coyote created human beings.  My old history teacher still teaches this story when he teaches Washington State History and in an interview he retold the story:

Interviewer: “How did Coyote create human beings?”

Informant: “Before there were people on Earth, there were animals.  Until one day, a huge monster ate all the animals in sight.  Coyote was the only animal left on Earth and wondered where all his friends went.  Upon hearing the tragic news, Coyote became infuriated and vowed to stop the monster and rescue his friends.  So Coyote went across the Snake River to the highest peak in the Wallowa mountains and tied himself to the mountain with rope.  He then challenged the monster to try to eat him.  The monster tried but the rope was too strong and the monster panicked and tried to befriend Coyote because he could not eat him.  After building more trust between the two of them, Coyote asked to go inside the monsters stomach to see all his friends.  The monster agreed and when in his stomach Coyote saw all his friends were safe and plotted to free them.  Coyote then used his fire starter to start a fire in the monster’s stomach and took his knife and cut the monster’s heart down.  The monster died and all the animals escaped.  Coyote decided that in honor of the event he would create a new animal, a human being, so he cut up the monster into four pieces and flung them into the four winds to create tribes of Native American people.  He then washed the monster’s blood off his hands and proclaimed, ‘here on this ground I make the Nez Perce.  They will be few in number, but they will be strong and pure'”

Analysis: The origin story of man according to the Nez Perce also serves as the origin story of the Nez Perce tribe.  Their origin story tells much about their people as they are exactly how Coyote describes them as few in number but strong and pure.  This is one of the most important pieces of folklore to the Nez Perce people because it tells their story.  Most tribes have their own origin stories of their tribe and mankind which tells more about the tribe and their culture and beliefs than it does about how the first man was created.  Common Native American motifs are present in this piece of folklore including the presence of animal characters all named their animal names, and how it tells the story of creation.  I particularly enjoy this piece of folklore because I heard it in middle school and again in highs school taking Washington State history.


Another version of this same story can be found here: