Navajo Myths: Coyote and the Stars

Story as told by Nellie Benally, Red Valley, Arizona

The Sun, the Moon, the Monster Slayer, Born-for-Water, and the other Diyin Dine’e’ were seated around an unblemished buckskin hide that was stretched out on the ground. They were all talking about the creation of the Earth and the Universe. One of the Diyin Dine’e’ had gathered lots of crystal-like stones to place up in the Universe as StarsOne of those seated around the buckskin said, “Let’s place this stone here” and pointed to a particular area of the Sky. A second Diyin Dine’e’ suggested, “Let’s place this stone over there.” A third and then a fourth wanted to place other stones in different parts of the Sky.

Coyote came upon the gathering and listened to the discussion.  He asked, “Why should you place the stars one at a time? Why can’t you just throw them up there?” And as he said this, Coyote grabbed the buckskin and threw up all of the crystals into the Sky, which place them into the Universe at once.

Then Coyote picked one particular Star for himself, a reddish-colored one, and declared, “This is going to be my So’. This one will come out in the Early Dawn.”

Once Coyote threw up the Stars in the Universe, other Diyin Dine’e’ began to move a few individual Stars around to form Constellations. They placed them (Dilye’he’, A’ltse’ Ats’ o’o’z, So’ Aho’ts’i’i’, and others) exactly where we find them today.

Navajo painting


No one knows exactly what people were here at the beginning of the Universe. The story starts with the Sun, Moon, Monster Slayer, Born-for-Water and the Diyin Dine’e’ as they start to construct the sky as we know it today.

Also, no one knows the number of stars in the sky. Coyote made it this way on purpose. He knew that if the children knew the names of all of the stars, it could lead to the end of mankind.

Coyote was concerned with the safety of the children. The stars connect to our stories, and some stories are not suitable for children. Their minds are fragile and still developing. It would be like feeding meat to a baby.

Coyote recognized the existence of change in the Universe. The Navajo expression “Lahgo na’hodidooda’a’l,” recognizes change in life. Significant changes happen once every twelve generations. The Earth and the Sky, for example, change positions just as we do while sleeping at night.

A’ltse’Ats’o’o’z (the first feather) or Orion, was given to the Monster Slayer and Born-for-Water in the form of a live plume (hiinaah ats’os). To the west of Orion is So’ Aho’ts ‘i’i, the Three Pinching Stars, which represent changing Woman, Salt Woman, and The Enemy-Doesn’t-See-the-Woman Woman. These three women were always following their children, supporting them.

The Enemy-Doesn’t-See-The-Woman Woman had three children: the Hart Flint People, Rainbow People, and the Star People. These children represent Ch’aashzhinii, the Black Dung People found in the Enemyway Ceremony.

Changing Woman had four children: Monster Slayer, Born-for-Water, Tsooye’ Ha’dleehe, and Leeyah neeya’ni’. The last two children were born when Changing Woman’s water broke and landed on Earth during the delivery of the Twins. Changing Woman did not know this event took place.

Nelly Benally

Nellie Benally


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