U Mahau into Wo'i
The Desert Tortoise and The Coyote


One day in the very hot month of August, the season of picking pitayas, a desert tortoise was walking along under the branches of the large pitayas cactus. She was eating the red and juicy pitayas that had fallen to the ground. She was walking along with her mouth all red from the pitaya juice, just content and happy.

As she walked along, she came upon a hungry coyote. The coyote greeted her courteously, hoping to make a meal out of her and asked, "What is it that you have eaten which makes your mouth all red?"

"I just ate a man. And if you bother me, I shall eat you too," the tortoise replied opening her mouth and showing her small teeth.

The coyote became afraid of the tortoise and after a while he said, "Friend turtle, tell me where I can find something to eat."

"Come with me. At the big ranch I have some friends. They always feed me and I will share with you."

They talked as they walked along. The coyote and the desert tortoise had been walking for sometime when the coyote desperate with hunger said, "When are we going to arrive at this ranch? How far away is this ranch?"

"The ranch is not far, lets keep on walking and soon we will get there," said the tortoise. But this was not the truth. There was no ranch and the tortoise knew that if the coyote was given a chance, he would eat her all up. So, they continued to walk.

Again the coyote asked how far the ranch was and again the tortoise answered that it was not far. She continued to walk at her slow pace and the coyote who was just about to fall down from hunger asked the tortoise if she could walk faster.

She then told the tortoise that if she walked too fast, then smoke would begin to rise from her feet and then she asked him to look to make sure there was no smoke coming from under her shell, otherwise they would never get there.

So, the coyote continued to follow her, with his nose close to her feet and continued walking until he could walk no more. He fainted and fell down and the desert tortoise continued walking to the next patch of delicious pitayas.

This is how the desert tortoise fooled the coyote and this took place many years ago.

Courtesy of the Yaqui Myths and Legends:
Pascua Yaqui Language and Culture


Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature
Compiled by: Glenn Welker




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