Coyote Marries His Own Daughter

Coyote started back to his home. He had a family and among his children he had a grown daughter, just old enough to get married. He was getting tired of his wife and he wished he could find some way to marry his daughter.

He got back home. He told his family, “I’m feeling sick. I don’t think I’ll ever get well. This is the last time I’m going to hunt for you before I get very sick.”

He killed a deer. In the deer’s nose there are some worms called ‘deer’s nose worms.’ He took out the worms. He brought the meat home. He put the worms in his clothes.

That night he told his wife, “I don’t feel like staying home. Make a platform for me in a tree because I’d like to sleep in the open air. I’ll be more comfortable there. You must watch that place. If some worms fall down, that means that I’m dead.”

The platform was made for him up in a tree. He lay there. He kept groaning and sighing like a very sick man.

He told his wife, “After I die you must take no other trail but go right for the east. That’s our custom. Stay there four days and then you can go anywhere you want to. [It is the Jicarilla custom to move camp to the east after a death in the family.] But you must give your daughter to the first man who meets you, no matter who he is, an old man or a young one. That man will then take care of you. I don’t want you to have a hard time.”

Coyote had a prominent wart on the back of his head between the ears.

They waited there two days. Then they saw the worms falling from that place.

The woman began to cry. Coyote had said before he died, “Don’t bury me. I don’t want to be buried. I don’t want my body in the earth. I want it to stay in the open air.” So when the worms dropped, the family burned the house and all the possessions and moved the camp to the east.

When the family was on the other side of the hill, Coyote got up. He put on fine clothes and painted his face with white clay. He combed his hair too. He tried to make himself look different.

Then he went over and met his own family. He stood there and asked questions. “Where are you going?” he said.

That woman answered, “My husband died just a little while ago; therefore we are moving.” She was crying. Her hair was cut too. [Close relatives cut the hair as a sign of mourning for the deceased.] Coyote said, “Oh, how sad for you people! You have lost your good man. I was coming to help him, for I heard a couple of days ago that he was very sick. But I’m too late.”

“What did that man say before he died? When a man has a family he always says something before he dies.”

“He said nothing,” answered the wife.

“No, I don’t believe it. He must have said something. You must tell me what he said. You must not cover up his words. You must do what he said.”

Finally the wife said, “He told us to go to the east and stay four days and then to go where we like. But he said I must give my daughter to the first man who met us.”

“See, I knew it! Many times it happens that way. All right, here I am. If your husband said so you have to do it.”

“All right, here is my daughter. You can have her.”

They moved to the east and built a camp there.

Coyote lived there with his new wife. But he never stayed home in the daytime. He went out hunting every day and just came home at night.

One time he overslept. When the sun came out he was still at home. His wife cooked and they ate breakfast. After eating he lay with his head on his wife’s lap, and she looked for lice on the front of his head. When she tried to look at the back of his head he would say hastily, “No, no, it went in front; it’s right on the front of my head.” He didn’t want his daughter to see that wart. After a while he forgot and he fell asleep.

She thought, “What’s the matter that he won’t let me look at the back of his head?”

She turned him over. She saw the wart. She recognized him as her father. She gently reached for a pillow and put it under her father’s head.

She ran to her mother then. She said, “That man is my father! I know because I recognize that wart right between the ears.”

“No,” said her mother, “the owl has carried him away from us. [‘Owl has carried him away’ is a circumlocution to avoid saying ‘he is dead,’ for death or the dead must never be mentioned. Owl was a monster who caught humans in the mythological period and carried them home in his basket. Because the chance of escape was so small, being carried away by Owl was equivalent to death, hence the phrase.] You must not say that. You must not talk about your father, for he is dead. It just makes me cry.”

“No, it is my father! If you don’t believe me, come over and look.” Three times she told this to her mother. The fourth time the woman came.

Coyote was very sound asleep. She looked at the man. He was really her husband.

She got the scraping pole. [The scraping pole is the pole over which a hide is placed while the fur is being scraped from it.] She hit him with it right on the back of the neck. This time he was really dead.


Return to the List of Jicarilla Apache Tales

Return to Main Index of Tales