A Coyote Story (2020)
I’d better insert a disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed herein belong solely to the author and are not to be construed as pertaining to any other group or individual, indigenous or otherwise. There, done.
LS, my dads father, was talking about the Coyote and how he’d mistakenly thought a song he heard one day was his “doctor” song coming to him. T.C. (The Coyote) was walking along talking to himself when he heard singing . . . faint . . . drifting on the breeze. He stopped so he could hear better . . . “Yes,” he said, “that must be my doctor song. I heard that when you get up in age you might become a doctor and that’s my doctor song coming to me. Yaa-pah!”
What he actually heard was the Cottontail singing, and if he’d listened carefully to the words, he would have known he wasn’t hearing a “doctor” song.
Let me clarify what’s meant when I’m say “doctor “ . . . I don’t be referring to a medical doctor M.D.
When the old people has something wrong with them they send for a “doctor” . . . Indian doctor. No medicine man shaman mumbo jumbo . . . the Indian doctor will “talk” to you find out what’s the problem. If you need some medicine they get the plants can fix you . . . if somebody’s talking witchery they will go and tell them “Stop talkin’ shit – you know what’s gonna happen you keep talkin’ that way.”
Anyway, to put an end to this . . . the Coyote wasn’t on no “vision quest”. . . he was just out doing things Coyotes do . . . up to no good most likely.
Where is this going?
Sometime around 2003 I co-authored a paper about the possible use/purpose of petroglyph panels in Lower Renegade Canyon (Little Petroglyph Canyon, NAWS China Lake).
If you be familiar with petroglyphs you’ll know that they are abstract representations of humans, animals, birds, etcetera . . . then you also have pecked geometric shapes and patterns curvilinear lines dots all sorts of nonobjective detritus . . . early Juan Miro without color.
Well . . . after the gathered rock art cognoscenti heard the paper, they was rolling on floor laughing . . . cos we dint have no track record no PhD . . . in other words no rhetorical paper bullshit gathering dust in some obscure file cabinet corner. Not only did we lack academic “credibility” . . . but we also lacked anthropological “visibility” . . .
That’s just the “exposition” of the theme . . . the variations followed. O.K. Now where was I?
So some years later (in the past 2 weeks) I built a MOC . . . a figure made up of miscellaneous bits and pieces of old Bionicle snap together figures that I had in my collection of stuff from the past. MOC is an acronym for My Own Creation.
So what did I build?
I made a fétiche, a physical manifestation derived from all the anthropomorphic petroglyphs that I had seen during my numerous archaeological survey field trips at NAWS China Lake . . . a 21st century relicant of a being from OVP mythology . . . the Coyote.
*fétiche – (religion) fetish, idol
Sculpture se limite à des fétiches et des représentations de dieux toujours de petites dimensions. (Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anthropologie 1958) trans. – sculpture is limited to fetishes and representations of gods always small.
This ain’t the “trickster” no, no . . . it’s the Coyote . . . “T.C.”
In Navajo mythology he is known as the Reckless Coyote.
The name “trickster” is like the word “Native American” . . . a generic term, politically incorrect . . . the latter coined by the Federal Gov’t to avoid having to comply with CFR 25 policy . . . and “trickster” by Academia . . . thank you Gerald Visenor et al, purveyors of the “trickster” mythos.
T.C. is a clown, not the present day psychotic Halloween freak, but what Tony Hillerman called a “sacred” clown . . . a persona there to remind you and me that we aren’t who we think ourselves to be, but rather mere mortals.
Mythologically, a double edged sword . . . supernatural, at the same time human.
I’ve seen the ceremonial clowns at Taos Pueblo during the San Geronimo Day festivities, and I’ve seen the Navajo Yeibichei “clown”. The Apache have a similar figure and the Puebloan people have the “koshare.”
And that’s the concept for the figure, the “why” . . . the Owens Valley Paiute (OVP) dint have no Geronimo no Crazy Horse no Emiliano Zapata no Caesar Chavez or Tony Stark . . . the OVP only have The Coyote.
My fétiche wags the proverbial finger at you if you get “too full a yo’sef” . . . he’s there to let you know that he sees through the sham, the artifice . . . because, in reality it’s you who’s the “trickster.“
The Coyote stories are the Aesop’s Fables of the OVP . . . there’s a moral in the Coyotes misadventures.
Anthropologists have tagged the Coyote stories “The Coyote Cycle” . . . . tricycle . . . bicycle . . . they don’t say.
But as Brer Rabbit said, “Please Brer Fox, don’t trow me in da briar patch, whatever youse do, jus’ don’t trow me in da briar patch.” Or something like that . . . you know the rest.
Y’all have a good day.