'Blue Coyote' (detail) bu Jeff Ham.

Source: jeffham.net

'Blue Coyote' (detail) bu Jeff Ham.

Trickster Teaches the Prairie Dogs How to Disenroll Their Members

Trickster was on his way to the National Gathering of Tricksters when he came upon the Red Whisker Prairie Dog Village.

At the gathering each trickster there would be bragging about their accomplishments and trying to outdo one another. Trickster was embarrassed to be arriving on foot and not in a stretch Hummer like the big timers so he thought he might get a few bragging rights if he was able to fool this little village right before he arrived at The Gathering.

The Red Whisker Village was a small village and everyone got along well so Trickster figured he would get them to fight one another.

Trickster approached the outer perimeter guard, Unafraid of Hawk and asked to be taken to the leadership council because he had a very important proposal to pitch to them.

Trickster was taken to the village and told he could speak. Trickster transformed into his professional persona, appearing in a suit and carrying a briefcase.

"My friends, I have a proposal for you. In this briefcase I have some cards that will be given to each member. It means you are an official member of the village. They are very fancy cards and each one entitles a Red Whisker Prairie Dog to the goodies I will bring with me when I return this way. All I ask in return is a place to lay my head for the night and half of your plums. Mind you, upon my return, I will give you triple this amount of plums."

The council members were puzzled by this gift but they saw no harm in the proposal..

The next morning they and all the Prairie Dogs gathered to receive their cards. As he was preparing to leave, Trickster said he had another idea he wanted to share.

"Good morning" said Trickster "I have another idea for your consideration. It appears to me that the great supply I bring back will last for awhile but it can last even longer if it is divided among a smaller number of people."

"This is true" said one of the council members "But we divide everything here equally. How can some get more?"

"Very simple" said Trickster "If you have fewer Prairie Dogs in your membership, then there will be more for those who remain."

A larger group of the village who had been silently listening did not like what was being proposed. Though she was still considered a young adult, Quiet Chirper spoke up.

"I don't like this idea. How can anyone be asked to leave? We all made this village what it is and we all deserve to be treated the same"

With that, all the Prairie Dogs began speaking at once and eventually they were arguing with one another, shouting down one another. Quiet Chirper tried to call for calm but it was of no use. Trickster used his giant voice to get everyone's attention.

"My friends, let me tell you how this can be settled. The council gave out official cards to everyone, am I correct? Isn't that the right of a council? And if this is their right, does it not follow that they also have the right to take those cards away? This is a very important power to have. It proves that you are indeed a powerful entity and capable of making decisions like civilized Prairie Dogs. Furthermore, it sends a message that you are a free and independent village with the ability to determine not only your membership but also your future."

Quiet Chirper said "If we want to prove we are free then why choose this method? Why not prove it by strengthening our defenses so we can keep the hawks from snatching our family and friends? Why don't we build better perimeters so the snakes don't come in unless we let them so we can bury them in the holes? Why did we make a deal with those ferrets that one season when we gave them most of our berries if they promised not to invade us? Why did we relocate our entire village in the time of our ancestors just because some coyotes were lurking nearby? If more plums are so important then why don't we devise a better ways of gathering and storing? Why don't we fight those battles instead of throwing out our own relatives?"

All of Quiet Chirpers protests were of no use. The council decided that Trickster's way was the easiest and best way to get more for their group. The council made a new rule. Only those Prairie Dogs who met certain, new requirements were going to be allowed to stay. All Prairie Dogs who had been critical of some council decisions didn't make the members list. Some Prairie Dogs who were related to them didn't make the list either.

The banished Prairie Dogs packed their belongings and prepared to leave. Quiet Chirper and the others who had opposed the new rule exchanged hugs and tears with their relatives and friends who were asked to leave.

They all walked to the edge of the village together and those who were still members stopped while those who had been excluded continued on in search of a new home. Their future was uncertain.

"I will see you again Unafraid of Hawk" said Quiet Chirper as he walked away. "Trickster won't get away with this."

"Well" said Trickster, faking a tear "That was downright touching. The sadness and gravity of the departure shows that your traditions are still as strong as ever and we are all indeed related. This council is the wisest one I've ever encountered and should be congratulated for having to make such important decisions."

The council members smiled at one another and shook hands. What Trickster said was true, they thought. They were very wise.

"Friends, I must be on my way now" said Trickster "I promise to return with plums, gamma grass, buffalo grass, alfalfa and some casino tokens. I will see you shortly"

As he cart-wheeled away, Trickster was very pleased with himself. He had a nice little story to share at the gathering. As he skipped along, he began tossing the plums away one by one saying "I tricked them, I tricked them not."

"That was one trick but I think I will pull three more before I make it to the gathering" said Trickster "Four is a sacred number and I need to complete it so I get my medicine man trickster badge"

And so along Trickster went, skipping, spinning and dancing. He didn't notice Quiet Chirper was following him.

Robert Chanate is a member of the Kiowa Nation and can be reached at rckiowa@gmail.com and twitter.com/rckiowa. He is from Carnegie, OK and currently lives in Denver, CO. 

The image at the top of this page is a detail from "Blue Coyote" by Jeff Ham. To see more of his art, visit jeffham.net.

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