Zuni Indians Essay, Research Paper
Hundreds of years ago the Zuni people created and told
stories of human and world creations, tales of love and
lust, and just about anything “that gave people an
explanation for something they could not understand”
(Gaarder 25). They made up all these legends or myths
before there was anything called science. The stories
came from the heart and soul of these native people.
Legends are not just silly stories that were told for
amusement they are like magic lenses, they allow us to
have a glimpse of social orders and the daily life of
how the Indians interpreted things long ago. One
legend of the Zuni tribe tells the tale of the sun
and the moon and how these two heavenly bodies came
into being. The legend is called “Coyote Steals the
Sun and Moon.”
The story begins when an out of luck Coyote can never
seem to kill anything. He watches Eagle catch rabbit
after rabbit with all the ease. He decides to go to
Eagle with a proposition. Coyote told Eagle that they
should hunt together, Eagle accepts, so they begin to
hunt in partnership. Still all Coyote catches is just
a couple of grubs, while Eagle is far ahead with many
rabbits. At the time the world was still dark, the
sun and moon had not been placed into the sky yet.
So coyote blamed his hunting problems on the fact that
he could not see and eagle if he knew where they could
find light. Eagle was not really sure, but he figured
it was somewhere on the west. So they set out to find
They soon came to the Kachinas’ village, where the
villagers were busily going all out in their sacred
dances. The Kachinas invited Coyote and Eagle to rest
and have a bite to eat while they continued to dance.
Eagle observed the people and could sense all the
power they bestowed within. He began to wonder if
they were the ones who had control of the light.
Coyote pointed to two boxes, a large one and a small
one. They noticed that when the people wanted light
they opened the lids of the boxes. In the smaller box
was the moon, it contained little light. In the larger
one was the sun and it gave off a lot of light.
Coyote told Eagle that they should go and steal the
big box. So when all the Kachinas went home to sleep,
Eagle put both the sun and the moon into one box and
flew off. After a while Coyote wanted to carry the box thinking that Eagle might be hiding something from him. He pestered and pestered Eagle till he could not take it anymore and Eagle let him hold the box. Coyote promised not to open the box, but after a while, he wanted to know what the light looked like. So he took a peek. All at once the sun and the moon came escaping out of the box. The moon caused all the plants to shrivel up and turn brown. Then all the leaves fell off the trees and it became winter. As he was trying to catch the moon, the sun drifted away and all the fruits shriveled up in the cold. Eagle turned to see what was keeping Coyote. When he saw what Coyote had done he scolded him and blamed him for the reason coldness came to the world. “If it were not for Coyote’s curiosity and mischief making, we would not have winter; we could enjoy summer all the time” (Erdoes and Ortiz 142).
In this Native American legend the sun and the moon
represent the day and night. Thus, they are
metaphorically associated with summer and winter.
When Coyote releases the moon he brings death and
desolation to the world. “The sun, the father of
light who begets all living things upon mother earth,
the illuminator of the primordial darkness, is life
giver as well as destroyer” (Erdoes and Ortiz 127).
By doing this he completely disrupts the seasonal
cycle by interfering with the heavenly process.
At the time, to the Zuni, the Kachinas were demi-gods.
“They regularly visited the pueblos and established
elaborate rituals that included festive dances for the
people”(Erdoes and Ortiz 143). Yet, though the Eagle
trusted the Coyote and showed the Coyote he did by
allowing him to carry the boxes, even though he knew
how sneaky he was. But to the Coyote that was not
enough, he wanted more. In a way, he had to have the