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Learning Activity
Coyote’s Questions

Inquiry is one of the surest paths to learning. The fundamental human questions which lead to recognitions of our place in the universe are explored in Coyote’s Questions.

Retold from the Mandan Indians

Long, long ago, in the First Time, Coyote the Trickster-God who was also First Creator, was walking around the world one day when he saw the Human Beings. He grinned, with his red tongue lolling over his teeth. People seemed very odd to Coyote,  Only two legs—they could not walk properly—only lurch forward as if falling!  No fur! Always yapping! He tried to imagine being something so strange. “What would being a human be like?” he said

  So Coyote put himself into a kernel of corn in the humans' garden, and waited until a girl ate the corn. When she swallowed the kernel of corn, it didn't stop at her stomach but went right to her womb and made her pregnant. In the First Time, things like this could happen,

So in nine months Coyote was born as a human being. The girl who bore him vanished into the Spirit world, for she had given birth to a Spirit. When he was a little boy, he was a little different from the others, because he would always ask everyone he saw, “Who am I? Where did I come from? Are you my mother?” People would laugh and shake their heads.

Then Coyote took to wandering the prairies, and when he came to a cottonwood tree by a stream he would say “Hello. Who am I? Where did I come from? Are you my mother?” And the cottonwood tree would just shake its leaves. 

When Coyote saw Red–tailed Hawk circling the sky above him, he cupped his hands to his mouth and yelled out, “Hello. Who am I? Where did I come from? Are you my mother?” But Hawk just said “Skreeeet” and tilted his wings.

Coyote grew into a man with the humans, and everyone knew he was different, and maybe a little holy, because he never stopped asking his questions: “Who am I? Where did I come from?” But he was well liked, for he was a good hunter and a strong warrior, and a fine dancer to the Powers. And, he was very good at playing tricks.

One time Coyote went off alone on a long hunt. He was far from the people's town when a great storm seized the sky and black clouds rolled across the prairie toward him. Before he knew it the storm was on top of him. Coyote stood his ground and stared up at  Thunderhead with rain lashing his face and cried, “Hello. Who am I? Where did I come from? Are you my mother?” Thunderhead roared and sent down a bolt of lightning that struck Coyote right between the eyes!

Then there was a flurry of motion and a yip-yip-yipping and a brown streak raced across the prairies to a nearby butte and sat on top, panting with his red tongue lolling over his teeth, and Coyote remembered everything. He chased his tail for a minute, laughing, then he barked three times at Thunderstorm, rolled over and over in the grass and dust and barked “Hello Mother!”  How good to have four legs! What a good trick he had played on himself!

Coyote jumped up and raced toward the human’s town.
When he arrived he ran right to the center of the lodges and barked “I am Coyote and I come from the Earth, my mother.” And the people gathered round to hear him.

And among the smiling people was the girl, returned from the Spirit world.

And now, every year at this time, Coyote returns and leads the people in the dance, asking everyone he sees, “Who am I? Where did I come from? Are you my mother?”

END

Discuss:

• All humans ask Coyote’s questions about themselves as they become self–aware.

• The study of Life on Earth (ecology) begins with the same big questions.

• Coyote’s questions are very personal, and we believe that by making the study of ecology intensely personal to students, we can make a difference in attitudes toward Earth.

• Our process for making it personal is making art—which is by nature an act of  celebration.

Art-Making Possibilities

• draw or paint a scene from the story that you enjoyed. Enter in Journal.

• Write a story of your own about something Coyote did when he was human. If you like, make it sound like the story you heard. Enter in Journal.