Sacred Beings
Dog and Coyote

Pete Fredericks's ranch dogs
Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota, 1995
Photograph by Morgan Baillargeon, CMC K95-164

In many of the Plateau and a few Plains cultures, Coyote is an important figure in the creation stories. Sent by the Old-One, Coyote was to finish the task begun by the Creator. He distributed people among the various regions of the country, and transformed the beings that once fed on humans into animals that could be killed and eaten by people.

People often wore wolf or coyote skins to acquire the courage and skills of these animals. Men wore a wolf tail around their ankles to show that they were warriors or hunters.

The dog played an essential role in peoples' lives as companion and guardian of the camp. Before the arrival of the horse, the dog was used as a pack animal. It either pulled a small travois or was loaded with packs weighing 16 to 45 kg. Dogs helped in the hunt by driving deer and buffalo towards waiting hunters, or forcing buffalo over cliffs or into pounds. Some people owned as many as 100 dogs that could be used as payment in the transfer of society or sacred bundles. In some communities, the dog continues to give its life as food and to heal the sick; in others, it appears in stories and legends as an animal that sought medicines for human beings.

Mrs. Black Horse, Tse-Tsehése-stahase, with dog travois No. 26 in the Walter S. Campbell Collection, Western History collections, University of Oklahoma Library

Introduction | Buffalo and Deer | Dog and Coyote | Honouring the Horse