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THE COYOTE

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ED QUILLEN

TELLURIDE
MINERS' MEMORIAL

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SAN JUAN HORSESHOE

KEVIN HALEY

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HOME

THE COYOTE

CHILDREN OF
HUEHUECOYOTL

GEORGE MONBIOT

LUCIANA BOHNE

THUNDERBEAR

PAKWA MANA

ED QUILLEN

TELLURIDE
MINERS' MEMORIAL

LOCOFOTIVES

SAN JUAN HORSESHOE

KEVIN HALEY

JOHN BARANSKI

GEORGE SIBLEY

MOLLY IVINS

CROW FLUTES

GUY SPASTIC

BEN WLLIAMS

RICHARD ARNOLD


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Coyote (kî · ó · tee or kí · oht or koy · ó · tày ) , noun; pl. –tes.

howler1. The wild dog of North and Central America, Canis latrans, also known as the Prairie Wolf, Brush Wolf, and Song Dog, among other things; distinguished from the wolf by its smaller, slender frame, large ears, bushy tail, and slim pointed muzzle.

2. Slang. A contemptible person, especially a greedy or deceitful one.

3. Slang. A person who smuggles Mexican nationals across the border into the U.S. for a fee. (Often used disparagingly.)

4. Southwest Native American legend. A culture hero, trickster, or shapeshifter who is described as a buffoon, clown, or less frequently, a dangerous sorcerer and cannibal.

5. Coy-o-te, –tying, –ted, verb. To steal, pilfer, take, or acquire by devious or deceitful means.

[Coyote is derived from Mexican Spanish coyote, which originated from the Nahuatl word, coyotl. Nahuatl is a group of Uto-Aztecan languages spoken in Central America.]


SONG DOGS IN MY SOUL

by MaryJoy Martin ©2005
Author of “The Corpse on Boomerang Road
and other nonfiction books

Coyote smilesCoyote, one small musical word that means so many things —a wild dog, a clown, a despicable person, a thief, vermin to be eradicated, anything worthless, someone cunning, pirated works, a romantic twilight voice on the wind, a sorcerer.

To add to the myriad meanings and entities of the coyote, animal biologists, obsessed with classifying minute details, have identified as many as nineteen subspecies of the animal, from the petite and lanky plains coyote (Canis latrans latrans), to the stunning and luxuriant mountain creature, (Canis latrans lestis).

Ancient doorway to mysteryIn pre-Columbian timelessness, the coyote inhabited only the west-central portion of North and Central America. With the advancing tide of European settlement across the continent, the coyote and its cousin, the wolf, were seen as a threat to livestock, crops, and human life, and were summarily persecuted, with bullets, traps, clubs, poison, and bad press. The wolf declined, and eventually required “re-introduction” to his old haunts. But the coyote increased, spreading his joyful song beyond the old possibilities, right into the noise of the urban world.

What is Coyote's trickery? What is his wisdom? How has he outwitted death? A keen adaptability isn't the only key to survival. Coyote has something more, much more. In many southwestern cultures Coyote is supreme over the wolf, some describing the wolf as a “big coyote,” instead of coyote as a little wolf. Coyote's adaptability, ingenuity, and intelligence are renowned and celebrated, not just among modern biologists, but throughout prehistory. His ability to endure is unparalleled. Yet this alone didn't make Coyote sacred. His engaging personality, comic playfulness, exuberant celebration, boundless joy, and extraordinary cunning marked him as something from the spirit world.

The power of Song DogMany primordial tribal tales provide a glimpse of Coyote's mystical power. In most, Coyote isn't merely a wild dog, but divine, an immortal spirit that brought his universal magic and good medicine to the First People. The Crow tribe describes him as the Creator of the world and all it holds, the First Artist, the First Worker.

Coyote brought the gift of storytelling and music to some. He stole fire and gave it to the Apaches. He licked the wounds of dying Kiowa warriors and healed them. He lay beside beautiful women and made them pregnant. Called “God's Dog” by the Navaho, who see him as originator of death and bringer of dreams, Coyote is both trickster and wise counselor. When Fire God was placing stars in the sky, Coyote stole Fire God's pouch of stars, placed his own Coyote Star in the heavens and scattered all the rest. This Trickster can breathe sickness and dark sorcery into his victims, who then require the cleansing of the Coyote Way Ceremony.

CoyoteCoyote was a symbol or totem of the Hopi Coyote Clan and Water Coyote Clan. Hopis used his name to indicate a Two-heart – Coyote Man, “istaqa”– a person who practiced magic... and tangled in the old magic are deep, forbidden whispers of cannibalism. Coyote conferred with Maasaw, Guardian of the Dead. Coyote knew the path to those in the spirit world. He had the power to see into the past and out of the future, the power to call down lightning, the power to heal.

HuehuecoyotlThe word coyote derives from the Nahuatl language of the Aztec: coyotl; and Mayan: koyotl. In the Aztec pantheon, Huehuecoyotl or Old Man Coyote (Huehue = old man), was an ancient and sacred shape–shifting god of merriment, music, pranks, and passion. He taught special songs and dances and stories. And his dark side was full of the shadows of mischief, sometimes brutal and bloody, his laughter often cruel. He also was a party animal whose sexual preference was neither gender–defined nor species–defined —which might be a clue why the coyote met with contempt. Perhaps scorn for him came from the influence of the first Spanish padres —a fear of his magic, of his ability to use darkness and windsong, and revulsion of his uninhibited sexual appetites.

In the American Southwest, Coyote had more sexual prowess than Kokopelli (a fornicating hunchback whose flute sometimes appeared to spring from his loins, making it difficult to discern where the flute began and the phallus ended). An old Hopi storyteller once told me Kokopelli wasn't actually deformed, but had a coyote stitched under the skin on his back, and this is why he was so horny! Yet Coyote himself had more magnificent, gigantic sexual adventures than Kokopelli ever did, for Coyote was a shape-shifter, seducing women and men, gods, birds, snakes, and other animals. And howling at it all with unabashed delight. Such a god or spirit certainly would have rattled the piety of Spanish priests and given them reason to condemn the lusty Coyote to sulfur and brimstone.

Death by fireWhatever started the censure, gradually the power and magic, the humor and wisdom, the music and unrestrained joy of Coyote was diminished. Today Coyote magic is spoken of as “evil,” perhaps due to centuries of European beliefs of “witchcraft.” Was it always this way in Puebloan culture? Most likely not until the influence of the institutional Church of Rome painted anything “magic” with a demonized brush. There was to be no more healing of the sick or raising of the dead —that was “magic,” “evil,” the work of the dark spirits.

ShamanIf something seemed unnatural, it was condemned as witchery. Many tribal shamans were slain to stop their magic. In Europe, such healers and those who saw things before they happened or who communicated with the dead, were condemned as witches and tortured and burned and dismembered. For a very long time those in power have been destroying the shamans (witches, healers, magicians, whatever they label them) because their power is outside the realm of political control. The industrial revolution stuffed such creatures into the closet of fairytales or condemned them as madness and delusion. The churches made them a thing of sin. Yeshua, Jesus, The Christ, would have been burned at the stake for his powers had he come on the scene in 16th century Europe. Indeed, he was slain for the same reasons — he was a threat to those in power.

fireAnd so, too, were the “witches” of the Southwest. The Aztec and Mayan gods fell victim to invading Christianity and Huehuecoyotl fled to the stars. Stories among the Puebloans describing Coyote as a powerful spirit, were refashioned to make him an evil Two-heart, a powaqa (who was invisible) or sorcerer with cannibalistic practices. Once condemned, he was reshaped into a buffoon, to be laughed at and mocked. His deep sorcery, inherited from the belly of the earth, became taboo, and Coyote staggered down the road as nothing more than a drunken reprobate. Or worse: as a multicolored decorative trinket with a bandana around his neck.

bandana coyoteThis is the picture we have of him today. His supernatural power has been stripped away. He's just a bauble, or a pest, a poultry killer, a sheep eater, a creature despised. Eradication of his ilk has been a goal for more than a century. The going rate paid to bounty hunters for proof of death - a pair of coyote ears - has been $7.50, and sometimes as high as $20.

Yet slaughter by air, by land, by poison; their bodies heaped up and photographed, their reviled carcasses hung to rot on fences, and their legs broken in traps, have all failed to silence the Song Dog. Years ago I saw a coyote without ears, resurrected, hunting, laughing at the one who robbed him. The more Coyote is persecuted, the more Coyote thrives. Once only a creature of the West, Coyote is now living coast to coast, in Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Alaska; from cities to wilderness, their dominion expanded because of something we failed to see: humans cannot destroy magic, cannot kill spirit. His song keeps him in communion with the Four Worlds - the earth, the sky, his mortal world, and the divine.

SpiritIf we listen, he teaches us to do the same: not to lose touch with the Four Worlds. When we are in balance, then we can heal one another, trace our names in the stars, and teach peace to our children. Coyote has taught me how to keep a wild heart, whether in the darkness of a prison or the freedom of wilderness. He has taught me that at times I must walk in silence to stay alive, and other times I must celebrate with abandon. Wild is the unfettered landscape that is critical for human survival, but like Coyote, if I find myself surrounded by too much glass and steel, with hard pavement chafing my soul, I can rely on Earth to find me.

Coyote has shown me that I can put myself in the presence of Being without fear. He has told me that Ancient Magic can't be destroyed. The stories can be silenced or made taboo. The creature can be recreated as something pious, or when that utterly fails, as in the case of Coyote, robbed of power by stripping it to the least dangerous elements — the laughter. But who's laughing?

howlerCoyote has lost no power. He sings and laughs and celebrates Being every twilight. And my spirit is with him.




THE KIVA
Great Kiva at Chaco
The Kiva is the center of ceremonial life in Puebloan culture in the Southwest. It is a circular room, built underground or partially underground. It is a place to pass on stories, to learn old songs, and to learn Earth ways. The spirits who communicate with the elders and shamans are brought forth in the kiva; it is a place of connection to the other worlds.

Wrapped in legend and silenced secrets, Coyote Kiva – Iskiva – near Oraibi at Hopi once belonged to the Coyote Clan. From this we derive our name, honoring the People, the Earth, the Sky, and Coyote.

Shaman stoneHere in the cyberspace of Coyote Kiva, Coyote is restored to his ancient place among the stars. His image, with the Maasaw or a shaman, is traced on the kiva wall. He is honored for his magic, not feared; respected for his wisdom, not ridiculed. He is a symbol of expectation, of endurance, of a renewal and healing of Earth. He is a symbol of music, dance, exuberance and joy. Storytelling and poetry are his gifts. Coyote Kiva celebrates these gifts, celebrates life, and in celebration there is healing.

As First Artist, First Worker, Coyote is a powerful indestructible symbol of those who labor. His is the voice of freedom, of dignity in work. So much of our world labor history has been left untold, untaught to our children, leaving kiva ladderus without a real identity, except as “consumers.” The taxonomy of “consumer” was molded by the industrialist in order to make greater profits. With profit as the cornerstone, the worker is reduced to nothing more than a slave to it.

For centuries the worker has struggled to keep a human identity, a human face. Yet the industrial revolution made the worker part of the machinery. Production was the only goal. When workers joined in solidarity to demand what was rightfully theirs – human dignity – the industrialists turned them against themselves, propagandized them, and left them blind to their own power. This mirrors Coyote's story.

Labor heroes of that time were lynched, incarcerated, persecuted, ridiculed, and slandered for their words and ideas, for crying out against injustice, for demanding an end to child labor.

One such man, Vincent St. John, gave his all for his brothers and sisters. He began as a miner in the West, eventually becoming a labor organizer and the General Secretary of the Industrial Workers of the World. The Pinkerton Detectives (spies and cutthroats hired by the industrialists), feared his power to bring workers together, men and women of every ethnic group, and thus they attempted to destroy him by whatever means possible.

Because the telegram was the fastest means of reporting the movements and activities of labor leaders, the Pinkertons invented code names for these men and women, as not to give the telegraph operator a clue to what they were up to. All the code names representing the union leaders were vile animals (in the minds of the Pinkertons), such as Viper, Jackal, Scorpion, etc. They dubbed Vincent St. John “Coyote.” The blind persecutors stumbled into a truth!

EyesSt. John's Coyote was astute, indestructible, always bouncing back after they bound him and tossed him in a cell. They put a price on his head, they shot him, they locked him away without due process… and still he came back singing the justice song of the worker. St. John was determined to bring about social revolution or die trying. He believed in the power of the worker, the power of education, the power of example, the power of unflinching peaceful protest. He is Coyote, Labor's Coyote, a symbol for all who seek justice in an unjust, unbalanced world.

Coyote smilesThese are the entities that make up the fabric of Coyote Kiva - the symbols of those who dare to speak out against injustice, those who refuse to be silenced by lies, those who dare to heal, dare to dream a better world, those who are willing to call down lightning when it is needed.

Welcome to Coyote Kiva!



Mossy Coyote

_________________________________
Kedmôgidaômwawôgan,
Wawidahômwawôgan,
Kwsilawakamigzowôgan
Compassion, Understanding, Respect


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