Terry Cross

Lesson 3 – The Coyote Story

Goal: Listen to the Coyote Story and find understanding in healing domestic violence.  Lesson three addresses the power of setting a boundary, taking action, and saying no in healing abuse.

Activity: Terry Cross shares the story of Coyote that helps heal from domestic violence.

“When I started using storytelling as a way to enhance parenting, I found people telling me stories, some of which had been underground for a hundred years that when the churches came in there were stories that were not okay to tell, people were told to not tell anyone. This story was told to me by Talula Pinkum up in Yakima and we were talking about child sexual abuse, and she said that there was a story that she had been told and she had been told to keep it secret but it she thought it was time for that story to come out and be used by the people.” Terry Cross

It’s a coyote story. It seems that there was a village encampment along the river. The everyday routine of chores was to send one of the young women, probably a teenage girl, a girl who is just coming into being an adolescent, with water baskets to go the river to get water for the day. Coyote is trickster who is often motivated by his passions and urges rather than his intellect; he is one of those who teaches lessons by the things he does wrong. So coyote was traveling along this river one day and he stopped because he saw a young woman who was filling her water baskets and he saw her and desired her and he thought up a way to turn himself into a baby and float down the river.

Coyote Transforms into a Baby

So here he is, he’s floating down the river, and he’s in the form of a tiny little baby. He is crying, screaming, and hands kicking and screaming, and she sees this baby out in the water, and she goes out and she gets the baby, to rescue the baby, she picks up the baby, she’s  looking at the baby, carries it up on shore, and she is just puzzled as to where this baby came from floating in the river, and just as she is walking up on the bank, Coyote turns himself into Coyote, transforms himself, has his way with her, disappears, and he is gone. And she is devastated, of course. She is crying, she is hurt, she doesn’t know what happened to her, she is shamed by what has gone on and she picks up her water and she carries it back to her village.

The First Sister Refuses to Fetch the Water

She has two sisters, and the two sisters recognize that something is wrong because she is just so withdrawn and tearful. And they ask her, “What’s the matter, what’s wrong?” And she is not able to talk about it, she is not able tell them, she’s not able to disclose. But the next day she will not go for the water. She just will not go. So her sister says “That’s silly, I’ll go get the water.” So her sister goes and gets the water and the Coyote is hanging out there because it worked the day before so he turns himself into a baby, floats down the river, and the same thing happens, she picks him up, she holds him, pulls him out of the river, walks onto the bank, again coyote transforms himself into his being and Coyote transforms himself, turns into himself,  he has his way with the second sister and now she knows what happened to her sister and she is devastated as well and she is angry with her sister for not telling her, for not giving her warning.

The Second Sister is Angry

She makes her way back to the village but it is her anger that motivates her.  She comes and she confronts her sister with this and while the first one, her actions were motivated by her shame and her fear of what people will think, the second sister is motivated by her anger, and so she is energized and when she confronts her sister who it happened to first the sister cries and says she is so sorry and she should have warned her and they say, “Well this should never happen to anyone.” So the third sister says, “Leave it to me.” And they say, “But, no, you shouldn’t go down there.”  She says, “No, we have to confront this.”

The Third Sister Goes to the River

So the next day the third sister went for the water and sure enough, Coyote was waiting on the opposite bank by the water. He sees her filling her water baskets and he turns himself into a baby and floats himself down the river, she picks him up out of the river. As she’s stepping up onto the bank, she is watching him very carefully and just as she sees him start to transform, she grabs him by his member and slings him around and around and around and she throws him across the river. So Coyote learned his lesson not to be messing with young women.

Questions to think about:


  1. 1. Who is Coyote?  Describe Coyote as a person.   Why did Coyote do this again with the third sister? Are their people that you know that have behaved as Coyote has behaved?  If so, what were their behaviors?
  1. 2. With the third sister, is there a different outcome for Coyote?

Second Sister

  1. 1. When the third sister hears of her sisters’ experiences with Coyote’s, what does she do?  Explain your understanding of her choice.
  1. 2. The third sister makes a decision to confront Coyote?  Why?  Have you ever seen anyone confront an abuser?
  1. 3. The third sister confronts Coyote by grabbing his member and throwing him back across the river.  What is the significance of this?


  1. 1. When confronted and stopped in his act, what happens to Coyote?  Can this happen in our community?

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