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by Perry Robinson

Coyote, the holy person found in traditional Navajo teachings, displays many human characteristics as well as many others that are powerful and supernatural.In many of his stories, he gets into trouble by doing things he is warned against and by taking something good to extremes.Chaos and problems result.Even though he has the ability to help and protect, Coyote often chooses the path of self-destruction that harms his friends and causes concern.

People often follow in the same way, hurting loved ones and themselves as they skip down a road that others see as harmful and leading to a dead end—both literally and figuratively.Take for instance, a woman we will call Jane who now lives in the Shiprock area.Her life story is about extremes—those that destroyed her and those that saved her, thanks to the Coyote Way (Mą’ii na’ajiłee) ceremony.

The young woman looked terrible.Black lipstick, many piercings, multicolored hair, and general demeanor showed that she was not taking care of herself.But the number of doctors she had on her speed dial said something different.In addition to her three cards from different states certifying she could obtain medical marijuana and the five psychiatrists she was visiting, there were also medical doctors who were prescribing sedatives and other medications that kept her drugged and out of touch with reality.Her father watched Jane descend further into the depths of dependency as the situation grew increasingly desperate.Tears and pleas for assistance followed, but the medical community was stumped.No prescription and no counseling seemed to be working.The staff at the hospital referred Jane to Perry Robinson with the hope that traditional Navajo medicine and teachings could reach her in a way that western medicine had not.

After diagnosing her problem through hand trembling, Perry warned her that the ceremony necessary for healing would not be easy and required extreme measures.“There’s a cleansing ceremony that needs to be done, but it is intense, really intense.Herbs, extreme heat, songs, and prayers are all part of the treatment that is conducted in a sweat lodge.If you do not want to get better by accepting these things, the ceremony will not work.”Jane desperately desired a change and agreed to have the ceremony—the same one that Coyote had performed for him long ago.

Coyote was “a teenager,” traveling in the four directions, bothering people who cast him out.Although he was not aware of it, he was also collecting different kinds of medicinal herbs that healed people.By the time he reached the Glittering World, he wanted to be like humans and so approached a group of people in a sweat lodge and asked if he could participate.They pushed him out the door, saying that he was one of the holy ones and that he should act like them and not be around Earth Surface People.True to character, he persisted until finally, the people put him in the lodge and added many hot rocks and let him sweat off the medicine on his coat.He screamed and howled at the intensity of the heat and finally passed out.Those outside grabbed his legs and dragged him to a distant spot and let him awake on his own.When he did, he saw what the people had done and decided that he should leave and become one of the holy beings.

Jane underwent a similar treatment.The dome-shaped sweat lodge held many hot rocks, creating intense heat; there was a wide variety of herbs placed in buckets of water with more heated stones, the smell from which was so strong that it reminded Perry of a large container of Vicks Vaporub; vomiting cleansed internally, while the steam and sweating seemed to boil her.That is why the use of this form of Coyote Way is considered a last resort when no other type of medicine practice seems to work.It took extreme measures to counter her extreme conditions.

Jane emerged a new person as was evident when she returned to the hospital a few weeks later.Her hair was back to naturally black, all of the piercings had been removed, her dependence on drugs and marijuana had ended, and she had a desire to work and be productive—Jane returned to “normal.”The Coyote Way is a ceremony that is fading from practice and should not be used without an experienced medicine man.Perry is a person who understands the teaching and performance of this effective form of healing.


I am Perry Robinson my clans is Edge Water born for Nakaii’dine. I am from Pinon Arizona born and raised there. I finished high school at Intermountain H.S. in Brigham City Utah in 1974 went to school in Utah State University for a year. I got inducted into military. I was in Marines for 4 years. Worked in construction, as a Boilermaker and iron worker for some years. I slowly worked my way back into schools to get licensed in counseling grandfathered in and a license to do traditional counseling- ceremony. I worked for Navajo Nation behavioral health for 25 years as a traditional practitioner. Retired last year. Started working with UNHS. Now as traditional consultant- practitioner.


Many articles in this section were adapted from WeRNative.org, a website for Native Youth by Native Youth