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Coyote and the Yellow-Jackets

Shasta Narrative

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People were living at Ihiwéyax. There was a fish-weir there on the river, and people were drying lots of salmon.  Coyote was living at Utcíyagig; and he thought, "I had better go and get some salmon."  So he went to get salmon.  He came to the fish-weir, and the people gave him a great pile of salmon.  So he went back; he lifted the load with difficulty and put it on his back, then he went off.

By and by he thought, "I guess I will rest. There is all day in which to rest.  I will take a nap."  So he went to sleep.  By and by he awoke, and it was still only midday.  Without looking, he took his pack of salmon, which he had used as a pillow while he slept, and took a bite.  But while he was asleep the Yellow-Jackets had thought of him.  "May he sleep soundly!" they said, and he did.  Then they blew smoke towards him to work him harm, and took away his pack of salmon that he had carried.  In its place they put a bundle of pine-bark, tied up.  They put this under his head.  So when he seized what he thought was salmon in his mouth, his face came against the bark.

He jumped up.  "Who is it that has done this?" he said.  He looked for tracks, but could not find them.  "I'll fix that man, whoever he may be," said Coyote.  Then he ran back to the fish-weir.  "Coyote is running hither," the people said.  "What can be the trouble with him?"  He got there, and said, "I rested there at Utcíyagig.  I was tired and went to sleep there.  When I woke up, I missed something,--missed that that I had carried.  Some one took every bit of it away."  So he stayed over night; and in the morning they gave him much salmon, as before, and he went away, loaded down.

Again, in the same place, he laid down his pack and rested.  "I wonder what will happen!" he thought.  "I wonder who will come!"  Then he slept, he feigned sleep.  Now the Yellow-Jackets came.  He didn't think they were the ones.  "They always light on salmon that way," he thought.  So they lighted on the salmon, on the pack he was leaning on.  They almost lifted it.  Coyote was looking at them as they moved it.  Then they lifted it up from the ground, and dropped it again.  "I wish you would help me!" they said to each other.  They lifted it, they flew away with it.  "Not too fast!" said they.  They flew away, and took his salmon from him, the salmon he was carrying home.  Coyote watched them as they flew, he followed them; but just there he grew tired, and gave out.

Then he went back to tell the people at the fish-weir all that had happened.  "Oh!  Here comes Coyote again," said they.  He got there.  "It was an evil being who took it from me, who took the salmon I carried away from here.  He went in that direction."  Everywhere this was reported among the people.  They all gathered together, and heard about it.  Then they got ready.  Now, again Coyote went off carrying salmon.  He rested in the same place; the other  people sat about here and there, waiting to see the Yellow-Jackets take the salmon away.  While they waited, Turtle came up.  Coyote laughed, "H?-h?-h?! Who ever told you to come?"  Turtle said nothing, but sat apart by himself.  "Why did you come?" said Coyote.  "You ought not to have come," and he laughed at him.  But Turtle sat there, and paid no attention to Coyote, who laughed at him.

Now the Yellow-Jackets came.  As before, they lifted the load up a little ways and down again; then they just lifted it, it was so heavy, and flew away with it.  The people followed them when they flew.  They flew in that direction, to where Mount Shasta stands.  Thither they went in a straight line.  The people followed them up the valley and the river, straight to Mount Shasta.  Coyote got tired not far from where he started.  Here and there the others dropped out, tired, and formed a line of those unable to go on.  Turtle, of whom Coyote had made fun, was still running.  "I'm not really running yet," said Turtle, as he passed them.  By and by all had given out but Turtle.  They were scattered all along, but Turtle still kept on.  The Yellow-Jackets still flew with the salmon.  They went up the mountain, and Turtle followed.  Then at the very top of Mount Shasta they took it in through a hole.  Coyote was the first to get tired; but Turtle, at whom he had laughed, was the only one who went on up the mountain.

Coyote saw him. "H?-h?-h?!" said he.  "Who thought he could do anything, and there he is, the one who has overtaken all the rest."  Now all the people came up, and arrived at the place.  They tried to smoke the Yellow-Jackets out, and the smoke came up far away there in the valley.  Coyote ran fast, so as to stop up the hole; but the smoke came out again in another place. So Coyote ran fast, and stopped it up.  The people fanned the smoke into the house of the Yellow-Jackets; but the smoke rose here and there, coming out at many places all over the valley. 1   So they gave it up.  They could not smoke the Yellow-Jackets out.  Then the people scattered about everywhere from there.  That is what the story says happened long ago.

1 Shasta Valley at the foot of Mount Shasta, is full of small, recent, extinct, volcanic vents.  It is possible this myth embodies the recollection of their activity.

From Dixon, Roland B. Journal of American Folklore; Vol. 23 No. 87 p. 27-29.
Collected on behalf of the Huntington Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History.
The following myths were collected at the Grand Ronde and Siletz Reservations in Oregon, and at Oak Bar, Siskiyou County, California.


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