Coyotes are rarely thought of as legendary. However, to the Great Basin and Plains Indian groups, mayasleca (mah yah shleh chah) – coyote – is a legendary figure representing both trickster and cultural hero.
In traditional Native American legends, coyote is nearly always portrayed as a male. His characteristics range from witty and clever to obscene, vulgar and thieving.
Such contradictory descriptions may seem odd to those unfamiliar with Native legends. Culturally, however, coyote stories are viewed as ethically humorous anecdotes, jokes and folktales.
Typically, the coyote’s tales are confined to the pre-human mythical age – a time when animals lived and talked as people.
To many Lakota (Sioux) Indians, these tales are regarded as lessons and advice.
The most common take-away from any coyote story is this: No child or adult should ever behave as coyote behaves in the stories!