The Buffalo Hunting Porcupine
Many Native American legends feature animals animals who embody a certain spirit or are known for a particular skill or "virtue" as the central characters; whether it's part of a creation myth, or legends and fables, they manage to hold our attention, and teach us in the process.
One story tells of a time when animals ruled the earth, and a buffalo tracking porcupine...
The porcupine had been following the buffalo from their chips, asking each and everyone in which direction the buffalo were headed. One answered it was "fresh", and the porcupine followed its directions to an river which the buffalo had just crossed.
The porcupine called out for a buffalo to carry him across the
river, but as each one replied "Do you mean me?", he
said "No, I want a different buffalo...", and moved on
to the next one until he finally found the strongest buffalo in
the herd who said "I shall carry you across the river!",
and proceeded to cross the river to fetch the porcupine.
The porcupine, unsure for his
safety, was apprehensive about getting on the buffalo's
back. Every suggestion offered by the buffalo was declined
by the frightened porcupine until the buffalo asked him if he's
rather cross the river inside him. The porcupine
agreed, and was swallowed by the buffalo.
As they crossed the river, the
anxious porcupine asked the buffalo if they had arrived, the
buffalo answered: "No, not yet", then a little while
later, he asked again, the buffalo replied, "We have just
come out of the water, it is safe for you to leave my
insides"... But the porcupine replied: "Not yet, wait a
A while later, the buffalo grew
tired of carrying the porcupine inside him, and ordered it to come
out. the porcupine came out, but his heavy tail, full of
quills punctured the buffalo's heart on the way, causing it to
charge and die suddenly. This angered the other buffalo, who tried
to killed the porcupine, but he stayed beneath the buffalo's ribs,
safe from their horned attacks.
After the buffalo got tired and
abandoned their efforts, the porcupine emerged, and looking at the
buffalo carcass said: "I wish I had something with which to
butcher this buffalo."
A coyote who happened to be sleeping nearby hear the porcupine,
and quickly got to its feet, and rushed to help the
porcupine. he said "Here is my knife for
butchering", and joined the porcupine at the dead buffalo's
The coyote issued a challenge: "Let he who can leap over
the beast butcher it", and the porcupine revved up, ran and
jumped, but he fell short of the mark. Of course, the coyote
achieved the jump in a single bound, not even grazing the dead
buffalo, so he got to carve up the beast.
After a while, he removed the
paunch, and gave it to the porcupine for him to go and clean in
the river, asking him to wait before eating any of it. The
porcupine, hungry from all the excitement tore off a little piece
and ate it, but not so little a piece, and not eaten fast enough
the t the coyote didn't see, and the latter howled with anger at
the disobedient porcupine whom he chased and killed with a club,
then stuffed inside the buffalo's carcass.
When he later joined his family, the coyote told them he had killed
both the porcupine and the buffalo; and he asked them to help carry
Before being removed from inside
the buffalo, the spirit of the porcupine said the magic words,
"Let a red pine tree grow here fast". The tree
sprang upwards from beneath the meat and the porcupine, carrying
them to the heavens, with the porcupine miraculously coming back
When the coyote and his family returned
to get the meat, they were surprised to find it had gone missing,
and he asked his family to search the are, hoping to pick up a
Porcupine sitting atop of the tall red pine, wished the coyotes
would look up and see him there, then it happened, the smallest
coyote looked up and saw the porcupine, sitting up at the top of
the branches on a small hill of meat. Coyote asked the
porcupine to throw them a piece, for they were starving, but the
porcupine had one request:
"Place the smallest of your children a little
farther", the coyotes did as they were asked, placing their
youngest off to the side... "Now make a circle and hold your
hands upward to the heavens," so they did, and porcupine
began throwing down the huge chunks of meat which ended up
knocking the coyote and his family dead, with the exception of the
When he came back down, he took care the little coyote, fed him
some meat and then went home with as much as he could carry.
Later on, the porcupine and the coyote who had since become close
friends, ended up helping each other in the hunt for buffalo.
The coyote, along with the
buffalo and the bear, features prominently in Ute lore, here is another example
of a children's fable which features a coyote:
Steals the Blanket : A Ute Tale
by Janet Stevens (Illustrator) The title says it all, in essence, this is
a children's fable, about a coyote who steals a blanket and
ultimately ends up giving it back, realizing that he's done