Since the beginning of civilization, mythology and religion have existed as an explanation to the unexplainable. The Nez Perce tale, Coyote Finishes His Work , talks about the spirit, Coyote, and his work on earth up to the point where he met the Great Spirit. The works of Coyote, and the message left behind by the Great Spirit, parallel those by beings of other mythologies and religions. Each one involves an archetypical figure who acts as a supreme deity, and another which teaches and aids humankind.
These stories share the same basic structure and in some form they involve the redemption of the character or others. Webster’s dictionary defines redemption as, “The process of freeing from distress or harm. ” The message left behind by the Great Spirit tells us that,” Coyote and He will return with the spirits of the dead when earth is old and requires change. When they do return things will be made right and there will be no Other Side Camp. All the people will live together. And earth will return the first shape. ” The Other Side Camp represents the Continents and people east of America.
We know the Europeans inflicted tremendous atrocities against the Native Americans, and as a result Native Americans exist in very small numbers today. The return of Coyote and Great Spirit will literally be the rise of the Native Americans which Coyote created. Archetypical figures matching the characteristics of Coyote and the Great Spirit of the Nez Perce tradition are found in many religions, cultures, and mythos. For example, Coyote is depicted as settling and educating the Native Americans around earth. Coyote is also depicted as a wanderer that was capable of many miracles.
He was even able to be resurrected when killed. The Great Spirit is shown as deity or the highest spirit to the Nez Perce. The Bible, the Quran, and parables of Buddhism, describe archetypes which mirror, Coyote Finishes His Work but with different characters. Jesus the Christ, Muhammad, and Buddha were similar in the fact they were all wanderers, who taught the people they were among, they performed miracles of their own, and after their deaths, they were resurrected. Like Coyote, Christ is expected to return and redeem his followers.
In other cultures we see supreme deities such as, God the Father, Allah, and Buddha. What we learn from this is despite being separated by land, sea, and time, all of humankind grew, developed, and became refined by the tenets of their respective religious and mythological belief systems, which they adapted to fit their own needs. If the Other Side Camp represents the land and people across the Atlantic, some people may argue that the Great Spirit’s message may be interpreted as a warning towards those who wronged the Indians.
This eye for an eye mentality, changes the underlying focus of the story from one of hope and redemption, to one of vengeance and retribution. Although the genocide of the Native American people by the Spaniards and colonists may justify retribution, the absence of the Other Side Camp does not mean the Camp will be destroyed. Elaborating on this, Great spirit says,” There will be no other side camp. All the people will live together. Earthmother will go back to her first shape. ” The first shape of the Earthmother could refer to the supercontinent, Pangaea.
Pangaea was a single landmass comprised of all modern day continents, and is widely accepted as the first continent. With the promise that all people are to live together in a single land, the Great Spirit does not only wish to restore the Native Americans, but unify all races of mankind. This expands on the positive message of hope and redemption of not only the Native Americans from their long suffering as victims, but also the rest of humankind as transgressors. Throughout the span of time many cultures and people have sought to find meaning and a purpose for their existence.
The questions of where we came from, why we are here, what happens when we die, are to some people the unexplainable questions of life. The Native Americans and many other cultural belief systems find meaning and comfort in their belief of a Supreme Deity who will cleanse the earth and restore things to a state of perfection. Likewise the Nez Perce tradition, depicts the belief the Great Spirit will someday return to restore and make things right for all humankind, brings a message of great hope and redemption to the Native American people.