Coyote and Monster
The Nez Perces trace their origins to a struggle between Coyote and a monster.
Discovering that the monster had eaten all the people, Coyote tricked the creature into eating him. Once inside, he first cut out the monster’s heart, and then cut up its body. When he was done, Coyote washed his bloody hands and sprinkled the washwater across the valleys along the Clearwater River, and the Nez Perces sprang into being.
Retelling the story of Coyote and the monster reminds the Nez Perces of their origins and of their connection to a specific location.
Nez Perce linguist Archie Phinney collected a version of the Nez
Perce origin story from his mother, Wayi´låtpu, during the winter of
Archie Phinney. “Coyote and Monster,” from “Nez
Perce Texts” in Columbia Contributions to Anthropology, 1934.