Lesson 3 – Coyote and the Tree
Coyote was going there. Coyote was going through the woods when he saw a tree that was moving.
He went closer to investigate and found there was a hole on the tree that would open and close. Open and close.
Coyote said, “That is very strange! A hole in a tree, that opens and closes. I’ve never seen anything like that before!”
He watched it for a while and then thought, “I wonder…if I got inside the tree when the hole opened and then when the hole closed I would be inside the tree, but then it would open again and I could get out. I wonder…”
Coyote decided to do it. When the hole opened he stepped into the tree. The hole closed and he was inside the tree. Just to be safe he said, “Open hole!” And the hole opened and he stepped out.
“That is so cool!” Coyote said. “I like doing that. I’m going to do it again!”
So he waited and when the hole opened he stepped into the tree. Then the hole closed and he was inside the tree. Just to be safe he said, “Open hole!” and the hole opened. He stepped out of tree and said, “That is so much fun! The other animals will be so jealous when they see my new trick! I’m going to do it again!”
When the hole opened he stepped into the tree. The hole closed and he was inside the tree. Just to be safe he called, “Open hole!” And the hole opened again and he got out of the tree.
“This is so much fun, I could do it all day long.” Coyote said. But don’t worry, for he will not get in and out of the tree all day long. That would not make a very good story. He was now going to do something for the fourth time and if you know Native stories you know that the number four is very important. To Native people the number four is a natural number because there are four directions, four seasons, and four stages of life.
So the fourth time the hole opened and Coyote stepped in. The hole closed and he called out, “Open hole!” but the hole didn’t open! He called out again a little louder, “Open hole!” The hole didn’t open. Coyote yelled, “OPEN HOLE!” but the hole didn’t open.
Coyote clawed and scratched and bit at the hole, but the wood of the tree was so hard, he didn’t even leave a little scratch. Coyote looked around and realized, “I’m trapped in this tree! I’m going to be stuck in here FOREVER!”
And he started to cry like a coyote. “Ah-ooooooooh!”
He cried so loud his friends, the Birds heard him crying. They flew to the tree to investigate. They could hear him crying, but they couldn’t see him anywhere.
They called out, “Coyote! Coyote! Where are you?”
He heard them calling and cried out, “Hey! Help me! I’m stuck inside this tree!”
”How did you get stuck inside that tree?” they asked.
“That’s not important now,” he said. “What is important is you have to get me out of this tree!” He thought quickly and then said, “I need one of you with a big beak to come up and pound a hole in this tree so I can get out. I know! Robin, you have a strong beak. You come up and pound a hole in the tree so I can get out!”
Robin flew up. In those days he had a big beak. He started to hammer on the wood of the tree. But the wood of the tree was so hard that Robin’s beak broke! That is why Robin has a small beak today.
“Oh no!” cried Coyote. “That won’t work! I need two birds with big strong beaks working together. Sparrow and Wren! You have big strong beaks! You two work together!”
In those days Sparrow and Wren had big strong beaks. They flew up and started to hammer on the wood of the tree with their beaks. But the wood of that tree was too hard and their beaks broke. That is why Sparrow and Wren have little beaks today.
Coyote said, “I need a bird with a really strong beak who knows how to hammer on the wood of trees. Woodpecker, you have a strong beak. You do it!”
So Woodpecker flew up and with his big strong beak started to hammer a hole into the wood of the tree. And his beak was big enough and strong enough that he started to make a little hole. Coyote peeked out of the little hole with one eye and cried, “You’re doing it, Woodpecker! You’re doing it! Keep hammering so I can get out!”
Woodpecker stopped however and in a nervous voice said, “It’s getting dark, Coyote. I have to go home now before I get in trouble.” And Woodpecker flew away.
“NO!” yelled Coyote. “Don’t leave me, Woodpecker! I don’t want to be stuck in this tree! I don’t want…. Wait a minute! I’m Coyote! I have many powers! I have many gifts! I can get out of this tree through this little hole! Why didn’t I think of this before? All I have to do is tear myself apart, bit by bit, put myself through the hole and then when I’m outside, put myself back together. Why didn’t I think of that before?”
So Coyote started to take himself apart. He pulled off his tail and pushed it through the hole. He pulled off his toes and put them through the hole. He pulled himself apart; his legs, his stomach, his shoulder, his neck, his arms, his ears, his, nose. He tore himself completely apart and put all the parts through the hole.
There he was, laying all in pieces outside the tree. He started to put himself back together. He put back his toes, his feet, his legs, his hips, his stomach. He put back his neck and ears and nose and teeth. He put back everything except his eyes! He couldn’t find his eyes anywhere! He crawled all around the tree looking for his eyes.
“They’ve got to be here somewhere!” he cried. “I remember putting them through the hole! I know that they must be…”
Just then he heard a noise.
“Caww! Caww!” It was Raven. Coyote remembered Raven’s favorite food was… EYEBALLS!
“No, Raven! Don’t take my eyes!” cried Coyote. “Please, I need them! Bring them back to me!”
But Raven just flew away with his dinner.
“Oh, no!” cried Coyote. “I can’t be blind! I have to find something to see with!” He began crawling around the tree feeling for something to see with.
He found two little pebbles. He put those where his eyes used to be. They rolled around his eye sockets like little BB’s, but he couldn’t see anything.
“These don’t work!” he moaned. “I have to find something better!”
Coyote crawled around and found a big bush and on the big bush he found two big fluffy flowers. He plucked the flowers and put them where his eyes used to be. They didn’t work either!
“Coyote began to cry. “Ah-oooooooh! Ah-ooooooh! I’m going to be blind! I’ll never be able to….”
Just then he heard someone laughing.
“Who’s there?!” he called. “Whoever you are, I need your help!”
”Oh, it’s just an old woman out digging roots.” Said and elders voice. “And no, I’m not going to help you! You’re Coyote! You play tricks on people!”
“Oh, please old woman! You must help me!” cried Coyote. “I really need your help! Please…”
”NO!” she said. “You’re the trickster! I’m not going to help you!”
Then she paused. “But, tell me this, Coyote. Why are you crawling around the ground, feeling your way? And why do you have two big fluffy flowers where your eyes should be?”
“Oh, these are very special…flower eyes!” Coyote said. “With these flower eyes, I can see all the invisible spirits as they move around the world. Look! Over there! There’s one in that tree!”
“Invisible spirits? Flower eyes?” the old woman said. “Coyote, where can I get eyes like those?”
”Oh, I’m sorry” said Coyote. “These are the only two in the whole world, and I have them. Look! Over there! There’s another one by the stream!”
The old woman thought a moment and then she said, “Coyote, will you trade something for them?”
”Well, I don’t know” said Coyote. He thought a moment then he said, “Well, you seem like a nice old woman…. I tell you what I’ll do. I will trade these one of a kind flower eyes for…. YOUR EYES!”
“My eyes?!” said the old woman. “I don’t know. That’s a tough trade….”
But Coyote kept yelling, “Look! Over on that hill is another one! Look at that one flying by!”
“O.K., Coyote! I’ll do it!” yelled the old woman. She reached up and pulled out ther eyes and gave them to Coyote. He took out the flower eyes and handed them to her.
He put her eyes into his eye sockets, and they fit! He could see again!
The old woman put the flower eyes where her eyes used to be. She looked around and then cried, “Coyote! These eyes don’t work! You lied to me! You tricked me! Give me my eyes back!”
Coyote said, “Selfish woman! When I asked you to help me you said, ‘NO, I’m not going to help you; you’re Coyote!’ Then you found out I had something you wanted, and then you wanted to be my friend. Then you wanted to trade. For being so selfish you shall be punished! From now on you shall crawl around the ground, feeling your way, looking for your food! From now on, you shall be…. SNAIL!”
And that is where the snail people come from. And Coyote went on his way.
And that is all.
Lesson – Making Decisions with One’s Heart and Mind
Learn about decisions we make, biases that can occur, and how decisions can affect ourselves and others.
The student will hear and learn and discuss various traditional stories that will give them a framework to discuss decision-making. They will take this knowledge and apply it to their own life stories. They will theorize how this knowledge can be applied to their own story.
Decisions happen constantly
Our lives are a product of the decisions made for us and the decisions we make. We make decisions constantly. What do we wear that day? What route will we take to work? Should I call someone now or later? Should I go to this party or not go? What will I do for the rest of my life? We make decisions consciously and often without truly thinking through the decision itself or considering possible outcomes of those decisions.
Decisions are made of logic and intuition
Decisions are made with logic and intuition; with our brains and our heart. This process was understood by our ancestors and shared with us through the traditional stories. These stories give us a guide to see how decisions are made and the consequences of good or bad decisions. An example is Coyote, the trickster. Coyote is a very intelligent being, but often doesn’t think through (or even care to think through) his decisions. He does things because he wants to and has no regard for others. In may Coyote stories we can clearly see the bad choices he makes and laugh at the outcomes, but can we see and learn from his story our own story?
Decisions are made of hearts and minds
Decisions are made with our hearts or our minds, an emotional process or a rational process. Ideally we make choices with both processes involved, but too often we limit ourselves to the one that seems natural to us, or the one we are told is best. We strive to make our decisions add up and feel right.
Decisions can be affected by biases
In making decisions we bring biases with us. These beliefs color our judgment and decisions. We should be aware of them and the role they can play in our decision making process. For example:
- Sometimes we selectively choose some options that we agree with and disregard others we don’t.
- Sometimes we choose the first option that looks like it might work and stop searching.
- Sometimes we are unwilling to change thought patterns we have used in the past and try new ones.
- Sometimes we practice “wishful thinking” and see things in a positive light and not for what they are.
- Sometimes we tend to see newer information as better and disregard older input.
- Sometimes we want to believe the thing that has been told to us the most and from different sources.
- Sometimes we give in to the group-peer pressure.
- Sometimes we judge the information as good or bad depending on the person or group or source and how we feel about them.
- Sometimes we see a problem as a series of small steps and use up time addressing smaller issues instead of the major one.
- Sometimes we believe we have more power or control than we really do.
Enjoy reading and listening to the traditional story Coyote and the Tree. When you have finished it, review the discussion points at the end of the story.
Story Analysis: Discovering the Story
After listening to the whole story, share and discuss your thoughts on the following:
1. What decisions did Coyote make and how did those decisions affect him?
2. Write a list of the decisions he could have made as well as those decisions he did make.
3. Were others affected by his decisions?
4. Who and how were they affected?
5. Did Coyote exhibit any of the biases mentioned?