Indian Mythology | San Carlos Apache Mythology

Coyote and the Jack Rabbit People


1Long ago Coyote said: "I wish I was walking along with it moist under my feet." He went on with it moist under his feet as he had wished. "I wish I was walking with water to my hips," he then said. The water came to his hips as he wished it would. "I wish I were swimming across with only my back above the water," he wished again. It happened that way.2

When he was on the other side of the river he lay down as if he were dead, near the place where the people came for water. Soon a Jack-Rabbit Girl came for water. She filled her vessel and started to return to the camp when she saw Coyote lying there dead. She began shouting, "The person you hate to see is lying here dead." The rabbits all came running there and danced. They sent word inviting everyone to come to the dance. All kinds of living people came there, among them Skunk.

When all the people were dancing, Skunk sent his fluid into their eyes so that the people, one after another, fell down dead, but Coyote ran off. Skunk pulled the bodies together and made a round pile of them. Coyote suggested to Skunk that the one who should beat in a race around the small hill standing near, should eat them all. They, two, started to race around the hill but soon Coyote lay down right where he was and Skunk ran on by himself. While he was doing that Coyote ran back and ate all the flesh, leaving only the bones. When he had eaten them, he started to run around the hill. When Skunk arrived there was nothing there but a pile of bones. As Coyote came running Skunk inquired of him what had happened to the meat that had been piled there. Coyote replied, that the name of this place was Meat Separates, and that it was food for poor people. Skunk threw the bones away and accused Coyote of having eaten the meat. As evidence of this, he called attention to the condition of Coyote's belly as he lay there. Then they were angry at each other.

Coyote's Eyes3

Rabbits were throwing their eyes up. Coyote ran there and said, "Cousin let me do it too." They refused, but Coyote repeated his request. The rabbits helped Coyote get his eyes out and he threw them up. They fell back again and he repeated the process. Then the rabbit said, "Let his eyes hang on the tree." The next time Coyote threw his eyes up they caught and hung in the tree. Coyote had no eyes and Rabbit made eyes for him of pitch.

Tar Baby4

Long ago Fox was stealing. He was crawling through a small hole in the bottom of the fence. The farmer put a figure made of pitch in the hole. Fox was walking around in the night and saw this figure of pitch. "Get out of the way and let me pass," he said. "There are many watermelons." The figure moved from side to side. He went up closer to it. "Go on," he told it. It did not go. When Fox started through, the figure slid from one side to the other. "It is not a person," he said and started to go in. Move away he told it. It did not move away. He struck the pitch. His hand stuck there. "I will strike you with my left hand," he said. His left hand stuck to the figure. " I will kick you with my right foot," he threatened. When his foot stuck he said he would kick him with his left foot. When his left foot was fast he said he would switch him hard with his tail. His tail stuck fast. "I will bite your head off," he said. He bit him and his teeth stuck fast.

The man came and found him hanging to one side of the figure. He took Fox to his house and tied him to a stake while he heated water to scald him. Coyote came along and asked Fox why he was there. Fox said he was waiting there while they brought something sweet for him to eat. " Cousin, let me take your place," Coyote said. Coyote let himself be tied up and Fox went up on the top of the ridge to watch. The man brought out the hot water and poured it over Coyote's back so that the hair came off. Coyote went trotting off until he came where Rabbit sat by some water.

Coyote, coming up behind, saw Rabbit and caught him. While he was holding him with his teeth, Rabbit said, "I will tell you something." The moon was to be seen reflected in the water. Rabbit told Coyote that there was some gold lying in there and that was why he was sitting there drinking the water. Coyote looked and said, "Why it is so, isn't it?" "Cousin, you drink the water here and I will drink over there." Rabbit did not drink any of the water. He only pretended to do so, but Coyote drank a large quantity until his belly became very large. Rabbit ran away from him. " I will kill you some time somewhere," Coyote said.

A long way off a rock was standing up. Rabbit was standing against it. Coyote saw him standing there and was about to knock him down. "Wait for me, Cousin," Rabbit said, "I will tell you something." "The sky is falling," he told him, " look up here." Coyote looked up and said, " It is so, isn't it?" "We had better stand against the stone." Coyote stood against it and Rabbit ran away. " Wherever you are I will kill you," said Coyote.

Some distance away Coyote was catching grasshoppers when one sat down in his mouth and talked to him. "Smooth the spines of that cactus and I will eat it," he said. "Some other people will come to me and because of that I shall not be able to eat well." " Go over there by the water and I will eat it," Coyote said. " Because the girls come there to get water, I will not be able to eat well." "I will eat there where the dry wood is set up on end," Coyote said. "Because they come after wood I cannot eat there very well," it said. Then he opened his mouth and the grasshopper flew away.

Sack and Pot as Man and Wife

Long ago they say Pot was a woman and Sack was a man. As these two were walking together they came where there was a sheer cliff with no way down. Pot jumped over and was broken. Then Sack jumped over, too, but landed safely. He repaired the pot and they walked on.

As they traveled they came where a fire was burning over a large territory. Pot went right in, walked through the middle of the fire, and came out the other side. She stood at the edge of the fire. Sack went in and began to blaze there before he had gone far from the edge of the fire. Pot went in after Sack and brought him out and repaired him. Pot was not burned at all.

They walked on until they came to a river. Sack waded across to the other side. Pot went in but filled with water in the middle of the river and sank. "My wife is drowned," Sack said, and he wept.

The Loaf, the Cloth, and the Hide5

Long ago they say an old woman was living with her daughter's son. He went away to work. He made a chair and was given a loaf of bread for his work.6 He was taking it home to his grandmother when he came to the house of another old woman. She invited him to eat and he did so. After supper she invited him to spend the night there. During the night the old woman stole the boy's loaf and substituted another which he took to his grandmother. They ate the bread together.

When it was gone and they were about to die of starvation his grandmother told him to go and work again since they were about to starve. The boy went there again and made two chairs. He was given a table cloth for his wages. He was told to spread the cloth and call for any food or sweets he wanted and then stand with his back to the cloth. He took the cloth and started home with it. He went to another old woman's house where he was invited to eat. When he had eaten he was asked to stay all night. During the night the woman stole the table cloth and put another in its place. He went to his grandmother the next morning. When he came to the camp he spread down the cloth and standing back to it called the names of the dishes he wanted. When he turned to the cloth there was nothing on it. No food was there.

Then his grandmother told him to go and work once more. He went again and made two chairs. For wages he was given a hide and told that it would do quickly whatever he told it to do. On his way home he came to the house of the woman again and was invited to eat. He refused to eat, but demanded his loaf of bread. The woman said she had not seen his bread. The boy told her she was not telling the truth and again asked that his loaf be given him. The woman again said she had not seen it. He told her to hurry and took the hide he had been given from his pocket. "My hide," he said, "that person stole my loaf from me. Get it back for me." He dropped the skin and a black man jumped up from it. He drew a sword and said to the woman, "Give him back his bread and table cloth quickly." The woman cried and ran around. She gave them back to the boy who went home to his grandmother with whom he lived. " Good," she said. They lived well.

A rich man had a good many people working for him. "Where does the boy get so much?" they said. Another chief told his men to go over there and get that man. They went after him. When the boy came there they put him in jail. The chief told him that after two nights he would be hung. Then the priest asked the boy what good thing he had left at his house. He replied that his wife was there and beside he had a hide. They told him that he was to be hung in one hour. His wife came bringing the hide. One hour of the time he was to be hung his wife came in the jail bringing the hide. He told his wife good-bye. He took the hide with him when he went to stand on the gallows. He told the hide to strike the chief who wanted to kill him with lightning and to kill all the people. It struck them with lightning.

1 Told December, 1905, by Skinazbas, chief of the San Carlos.
2 The Sia account gives a reason for the wish; Coyote was weary from a long journey Stevenson, (a), 149.
3 Told in 1905 by Frank Ross, a Chiracahua Apache, living with the San Carlos. A widely distributed story: Matthews, 89; Stevenson, (b), 153; Wissler and Duvall, 29.
4 Told at San Carlos in 1905 by Sidney Smith, a Tonto Apache who was living with the San Carlos Apache.
The narrator seemed not aware that the story was of other than Indian origin.
5 This is a European story well known to Spanish-speaking peoples. The recorded tales have as rewards a snake, a donkey, and a stick instead of those here mentioned.
6 The loaf was supposed not to decrease.

San Carlos Apache Mythology

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Myths And Tales From The San Carlos Apache, 1918



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