( North America: Prehistory -- Twentieth Century)
Primal scatologist and scandalous omnivore, sacred progenitor and witness to creation, serial corpse and mythomaniacal traveling id, Coyote is one of the most ancient and important of the Native trickster figures of North America. A magical protobeing existing in a mode somewhere between demiurge and American Indian commedia dell'arte figure, he has endured since prehistory in extemporized and fixed spoken, performed, and written configurations in the full spectrum of Native American "literary"1 and cultural genres. Coyote and related tricksters appear in children's, adults', and initiates' narrative variants, both in sacred and profane oral storytelling and performance, song, chant, ritual, verse, and dance. The archetype whose counterparts appear in cultures worldwide, Coyote is, depending upon the tale, cycle, and culture in which he occurs, quintessential wanderer, transformer, narcissistic glutton, clown, and a host of other personas that provide audiences with more than cathartic entertainment or social commentary. Since, for many Native cultures, language creates reality rather than describes it, Coyote's game is the word incarnate.
The range of names given to Coyote in Native languages conveys a matrix of meanings referring to the animal, the personification of Coyote power, the character, and the symbol of disorder in the myths ( Toelken, "Ma'i Joldloshí" 204). To the Dine (Navajo), he can be "Ma'ii, " a word meaning the entire matrix of "Coyote" (Bright 20), or, sometimes, "Doo Yildiní, " "the one who is despised" or the "outcast" ( Toelken, "Coyote, Skunk"591). The Tonkawa