Coyotes, detail, 1985, Jeanne Begay, ET513.C-3
Photo: Kirstin Roper, © NHMU

Coyote Symbolism

Mąʼii (Coyote) is one of the original sacred animals in Diné (Navajo) culture. He appears in the earliest emergence stories alongside Áłtsé Hastiin (First Man) and Áłtsé Asdzą́ą́ (First Woman). He played a major role in the creation and ordering of the world. Possessing both negative and positive powers, Coyote is a god of creation and innovation. He challenges the status quo in order to spur change and improvement.  Coyote is known to wander off alone, returning with advice and important lessons. Coyote tales, which should only be told in winter, find him engaging in foolish, mischievous, and sometime disastrous activities as he attempts to outwit other animals and beings. The tales are funny and entertaining, but the purpose of these stories is to convey moral messages in a memorable way, to demonstrate the possibilities and limitations in the world. Coyote illuminates potential activities and actions and also the consequences of such actions.