Native American Tales

Coyote and the Origin of Death

Coyote and the Origin of DeathCoyote and the Origin of Death


Nobody used to die. Everyone was born and kept on living and living and living and living, but the Earth got full and there wasn’t food enough for everyone. It was suggested that people die and not live always. Some people didn’t like this idea. Some people were in favor of dying for a little while and coming back. Coyote suggested that the dead didn’t come back because everyone would just be in the same place they had started all over again.

Nobody liked Coyote’s idea though and they voted to be dead a little while and come back. Some people died and they were supposed to come back in a whirlwind some time later, to a house. Coyote shut the door to the house before they came back so the whirlwind just kept going on and the people didn’t come back to life. From this point forward, people stayed dead if they died, which no one was very happy about.

When a whirlwind is sighted it is said that it’s a soul wandering around and Coyote has to go from place to place because he caused a permanent death.


The idea of a soul being in a whirlwind is an interesting one. It’s almost the perfect picture of lost-ness. A whirlwind spins around and around, surely, it can’t know which way to go. Whirlwinds themselves, have no set direction, or so it seems. It’s a good analogy for a lost soul.


People gotta die.

I don’t know how much more simple I can get with this story. We have to die. It’s how things work. Certainly, if we were born and kept on living forever we would have the very problems mentioned in this story.


You just can’t live forever.

Weigh In

Did Coyote make a wise decision?

If people could live forever, how would our use of resources be different?


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