Excerpt from
" A Walk In The Woods" by Rainbow Eagle. ISBN #0-9655217-0-2 8 2003 copyright by Rolland J Williston

One of the major parts of Native spirituality is the contrary or opposite teacher. Their vision is to demonstrate what life could be like when it is lived in an unbalanced manner. These teachers were known by various names throughout the Indian nations, such as Coyote, Clowns, Trickster, Koshare and Heyoka. 

Lame Deer related the specifics about the clown in the Lakota traditions. They call the tricksters "heyoka." A person is called to be this character through a dream that either includes lightening and thunder or symbols of the same. The person having the dream is then a heyoka and is compelled to act out the dream in public. It usually involves a very embarrassing situation; therefore much courage is required. If the person refuses, he will likely be visited in an unpleasant way by the Thunder-Beings. 

What joy we get out of the Coyote stories and the pursuit of the roadrunner. No business enterprise would even consider interviewing Coyote. He would be called a "born loser," a non-productive worker who would do no one any good because he can't achieve his goal. For all his creative genius and his willingness to never give up, Coyote is seen as an insignificant creature who deserves to be the object of ridicule; a fool for continuing to try. In the Road Runner cartoons, Coyote teaches many beneath the surface lessons. We can certainly honor his creativity. Coyote has an attitude of never entertaining depression or self-deprecation, unlike some humans. He never seems to think he is stupid or an undesirable model. Like the Native American, Coyote has great vision; and he knows what he is all about. He demonstrates the Native spiritual truth that there are no mistakes in life, only lessons. Also, he never repeats the same antics or attempts to accomplish his vision. He learns from all his mishaps and dislodges himself from self-pity and blame. When he knows that his well-devised plan is not going to work, Coyote stops and looks at the observer as if to say, "Well, I tried my best!" 

In many Native stories, Coyote teaches one of the most powerful lessons of human spirituality: he never dies. The Creator, in one familiar story, gives Coyote the ability to recover and to always come back to life. The contraries teach the children and adults about some aspect of themselves. They teach by what some may call "bad example." They show the opposite of what the prevailing social norm requires people to do. Many times the tricksters act in gluttonous ways, scarfing down huge quantities of food or snatching it from others. This is a clear invitation for the people to re-examine their tendencies toward greed and over-indulgence. They often disrupt the order of the ceremony. They mock the prayers and songs, the Spirits, the sacred objects and especially the ceremonial leaders. The clowns try to cause an organized situation to become out of balance. Their escapades have various purposes. One is to keep the ceremonial people humble. The clowns represent the common people and they mock anyone who might get too serious or "big headed!" They also speak the truth in greatly exaggerated ways to call extra attention to it. They often portray ordinary life situations, showing the dual sides of the experiences to make us think about them or to make us laugh about some of the more difficult aspects of life. Also, they love to demonstrate lessons involving limits and boundaries. They act in a wide range of behavior from obscene to wise and innocent. There is often a direct relationship to the Medicine People. In some traditions they are actually healers, although usually in a contrary way. 


Coyote Poems