Coyote and Chickadee

Coyote and Chickadee
(time 9:08)
Big Ideas:
Educators are encouraged to focus on four dominant themes throughout their planning and study of Coyote and Chickadee. The themes integral to the story are 1) power; 2) emotion; 3) self-regulation; and 4) capacity. This story is a sequel to Chickadee Makes a Sumix Bow in which Chickadee attempts to continue his journey to reach the Big Council in the Sky in full possession of his Sumix bow and arrows. Suggestions and added information are offered below to assist educators in meeting learning objectives for their students. It is highly recommended that educators familiarize themselves with the story Chickadee Makes a Sumix Bow and the accompanying lesson guide as part of their unit planning. Several issues, scenarios, and concepts introduced in Chickadee Makes a Sumix Bow are repeated, overlapped, reinforced, or continued in the sequel.
Teachers are encouraged to read the summaries and reflections found in the book Not Extinct: Keeping the Sinixt Way that relate to the story. Several important topics and concepts are mentioned, such as:
  • Sumix power;
  • Cultural practice – Sinixt Winter Dance ceremony;
  • Smum iem rules;
  • Being of service;
  • Self-regulation, Coyote’s dualism;
  • Capacity and self-esteem;
  • Relevant artwork to accompany story.
Word Study:
A review of some words and phrases is recommended for younger children to assist with comprehension. The list may include the following:
  • Coax, stubby, coals, stout, gamble;
  • in fine humour, pounding rock pestle, been into mischief, to contend with, pitched off the cliff, all your relations.
Guided Listening:
The Coyote and Chickadee story is one of the longer stories in the collection and contains much information referring to Chickadee’s continuing journey to the Upper World. Younger students may need to listen to the story more than once to follow and grasp much of the details from the storyline. Guided listening questions may be helpful in drawing out key incidents and plotlines. The following are some suggestions to use in such an exercise:
  1. Why did Coyote want Chickadee’s bow and arrows? What trickery did Coyote use at first to try to get Chickadee’s bow?
  2. Chickadee took Coyote’s first challenge very seriously as he wanted to ‘prove’ his bow and arrows were strong and powerful. Do you think Coyote took the challenge as seriously as Chickadee? Explain your answer using details from the story.
  3. How did Fox bring Coyote back to life?
  4. Why did Fox reprimand Coyote?
  5. Coyote challenged Chickadee a second time. What happened this time through Coyote’s trickery?
  6. Explain the trick Coyote used to get the Prairie Chicken children to come out from under their bed.
  7. How did Chickadee help the Prairie Chicken children?
  8. The children’s mother and father were angry with Coyote and flew after him. What did they do to Coyote when they caught up to him?
  9. How did the Prairie Chicken parents help Chickadee?
  10. In what way did the water bugs help Coyote? What did Coyote do to thank or repay the water bugs for their assistance?
This story mentions or infers a wide spectrum of emotions. The real benefit of emotion is tied to their power to guide the decisions we make about what to do next. Educators could use this section as a springboard into role-playing or posturing exercises related to a unit on emotion. Many examples of emotion can be found in the story. Here is a partial list:
  • Happiness – Coyote feels good enough to sing twice in the story.
  • Jealousy, Envy – Coyote wants/covets Chickadee’s bow and arrows.
  • Insecurity, Embarrassment – Chickadee feels he needs to ‘prove’ his bow is worthy.
  • Sadness – Fox’s heart is sad with Coyote’s mischief; the Prairie Chicken parents were crying over the loss of their children.
  • Fear, Terror – the Prairie Chicken children were deathly scared of Coyote.
  • Anger, Furiousness – the Prairie Chicken parents went after Coyote to punish/hurt him.
  • Pride – Chickadee liked his bow and arrows and was proud of them and their power.
  • Foolishness – Coyote acted foolish at times, but does he ever ‘feel’ foolish?
  • Gratitude – this feeling nudged Coyote to feel grateful enough to repay the water bugs; Gratitude influenced the Prairie Chicken parents to offer to pay Chickadee for his help.
Many moral dilemmas simplify down to an issue of self-regulation, self-control, or self-discipline. It is believed that with diligence, training, and practice one is able to control the ability to do wrong or evil, no matter how small. Educators can teach self-regulation skills in the classroom setting. There are many free websites available for ideas and support at all levels from toddler to adult.
Coyote and Chickadee seem to represent the opposite forces of focus and distraction. Chickadee is totally focused on achieving his goal of making a Sumix bow and reaching the Council in the Sky. He focuses on what he needs to do, on problem-solving to overcome obstacles, and on eliminating rivals along the way. Coyote, on the other hand, rarely seems satisfied, is easily distracted and seems to approach things in a much less serious, and at times almost playful or frivolous, manner.
  • Many suggestions for games and activities for younger children relevant to self-regulation are highly recommended on the internet, thus none are included here.
  • When Coyote falls off the ridge, he asks to be turned into several different objects. What does this series of requests demonstrate about Coyote’s character?
  • Discussion, debate, and essay topics for older students may include the following:
    • Are actions what define good and evil, right and wrong? What are evil/wrong acts? – lying, cheating, revenge, murder, bullying, being selfish, having an egotistical nature, etc. Good acts are loving, showing empathy, caring, being respectful, being of service, and so on. Can both good and evil coexist within us? (Remember Coyote seems to lack empathy, laughs at and embarrasses Chickadee, yet shows gratitude to the water bugs.) How does self-regulation factor into this? Does good inclination or evil inclination affect judgment? Consider including the Yin-Yang symbol from Chinese dualism in your presentation or the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario.
    • Carl Jung – one of his ideas was as follows: we cannot know what it means to be truly good until we accept our capacity for evil; all goodness is shadowed by evil; it is a person’s choice to act virtuously or malevolently. Does that mean there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ person, but only a person who makes ‘bad’ choices? How much relies on the situation, the context? What if you don’t know all the relevant facts to understand the ‘why’, i.e. a bully’s background of abuse, abandonment, or mental illness?
    • Mistakes can teach us where we went wrong. Is being destructive a mistake from which to learn? What about mistakes made by others. Consider if witnessing an evil act should be seen as a good lesson on how not to be?
    • Suggested scenarios to consider:
      • You have tickets to a big game but are going to be late. Do you encourage the driver to break the speed limit to get you there on time?
      • You know someone who needs help but decide to ignore them on the basis that someone else will probably stop to help them out anyway.
      • Your doctor tells you it is critical that you stay on a special diet for your health. Or your team’s coach orders you to stay on a healthy diet as part of your training for a big tournament. Do you go through a fast food drive-through and order take-out so your friends, family, coach, or teammates won’t know you cheated?
Music has the potential to relay or set the mood. Singing plays a role in the story and is mentioned a few times. In the book we also learn that when a Sumix power comes to you, it comes with a song that must be sung at the pole at the Winter Dance.
  • Identify the incidents mentioned where singing takes place.
  • Are there any instances where singing has helped you manage a chore, inspired you to survive a challenge, or simply helped to perk you up, i.e. singing happy birthday, singing a song while washing hands to make sure you’ve been at it long enough, singing a lullaby song to a young child to relax or calm them down before nap time, playing games, etc.
  • Think of some games that involve music in some way. – i.e. musical chairs, skipping games, the Globetrotters basketballers practiced dribbling to the tune of Sweet Georgia Brown.
  • Words have the potential to set the mood in the same way as music. Would students prefer a car named ‘mustang’ or ‘snail’, or a truck called ‘tundra’ or ‘snowflake’? (This could springboard into a lesson on the use of descriptors, adjectives, and adverbs in creative writing.)
  • Tchaikovsky’s music from The Nutcracker Suite is ideal for demonstrating music’s mood-setting potential. Challenge older students to listen and guess which characters are represented by different parts of the music.
Cultural Practice, Sumix Power, and Capacity:
Different names are used for the spiritual realm of the Big Council in the Sky such as the Upper World, a Big Council, a Council of all the Animal People, Upper World Land, and Council Camp of the Animal People. In some faiths or religions these treks to a spiritual place are called pilgrimages. The Sinixt, however, would consider the trek more of a ‘life practise’.
It seems that both Chickadee and Coyote are heading to the same place but Chickadee’s route is more direct and focused than Coyote’s. Chickadee worked hard to make his Sumix bow and arrows, a requirement for his attendance at the Big Council. Coyote covets the bow and arrows. Chickadee is very proud of them even when Coyote tries to belittle, shame, and embarrass him about his bow and arrows.
  • In what ways does Coyote’s path to the Big Council in the Sky cause upset, confusion, altercation, intrusion, concern, and simply makes things more difficult?
  • Why do you think Coyote covets Chickadee’s bow and arrows, his Sumix or spirit power? Would he even know how to utilize the power of what he is coveting for good? Can’t he just find his own spirit power rather than take someone else’s? After all, Coyote has the bow and arrows plus Chickadee’s clothes and special items, yet he still can’t get focused, self-regulate, and control himself.
  • Why do you think Chickadee feels the need to ‘prove’ his bow and arrows are worthy and powerful as Coyote tries to embarrass and shame Chickadee? Have students experienced these types of situations where they feel a need to prove their worth? Consider better ways to handle this type of situation.
  • Is Chickadee weak, insecure, and not in touch with his own capacity? Discuss whether Chickadee shows any strength and stamina in the story. Once you receive your power and have become comfortable with it because it came to you in the ‘right order’, you don’t covet another’s power. You acknowledge the responsibility that comes with it, and know how and when to use it for good. Are there clues in the story that Chickadee understands his own power or capacity, accepts it, and maintains it? (Recall that Chickadee calls to his mystery power when needed.) Or is he still getting acclimatized to the idea of having a Sumix bow and arrows? In what ways do you think Coyote is helping Chickadee learn more about his own capacity and power?

Curricular Competency: (developed by the teacher creating the lesson plan in collaboration with the student(s) receiving the knowledge)
Creative Thinking:
Critical Thinking:
Positive Personal & Cultural Identity:
Personal Awareness & Responsibility:
Social Responsibility:


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