'Blue Coyote' (detail) bu Jeff Ham.

Trickster Teaches the Prairie Dogs How to Disenroll Their Members

Robert Chanate

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 and 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

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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
As an "ethnic Indian" the meaning of this allegory isn't lost upon me. I have seen Trickster's tricks before and they're very similar to Republican spendthrifts. There are more and more people being born in this village, or this state, or this country or this world, but there isn't enough food, enough jobs, enough medical care, enough schools, or simply enough of anything modern society requires to live comfortably. The Trickster's method of dealing with this is limiting the number of people who are eligible for these benefits. Trickster doesn't want to spend his "hard-earned money" paying for lazy people who aren't members of the same country club, or helping people who lost jobs because corporations can't create jobs if they have to pay taxes. Worse yet, some NDNs buy into Trickster's bullshit because they presumably want more for themselves instead of all their relations. I know it's been happening here and there, but I've been most aware of the Cherokee cutting back on their tribal members. Who would have thought that lineage and ancestry could be taken away from you at the revocation of a paper card. Next thing you know Trickster will have NDNs selling the sun and the moon.

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Indeed it does happen like this at times. In other times we also see the slick speaker come into the council sweet talking the members & promising the moon. We know what becomes of those words & promises don't we? You would think our peoples would wise up & remember what always happens with things that are too good to be true: Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me. The Washichu government have used this method to conquer & divide our people for centuries. Those who would not be fooled they either ran them off or killed them. What is more sickening is seeing these SAME tactics being pulled by OUR peoples against OUR peoples. Commercialism & chasing wealth is destroying our tribes slowly through dividing us into this camp or that camp of thought. This is so wrong at so many different levels my friends. We should ALL be working TOGETHER for the benefit of ALL our many peoples across Indian Country. I get so tired of hearing people squabbling about what to do with this set of funding, treaty settlement money, etc. when all the while it is tearing our communities apart. One group wants to spend it all & another group wants to invest part of it while another group wants to hand it all out to everyone without even wise guidance on how to use that money. I am encouraged by some of the People who are requiring the membership to attend financial responsibility classes before they hand out that 21 money to the young people. In the past, the youth would take that big money & buy a very expensive vehicle, party, gamble & just be wasteful of it all. In a short time they had wrecked that fancy car, drank it up, bought illegal drugs & lost it at the casinos within one year or less. All the while they came back wanting people to feel sorry for them & give them a handout. Look at all the hard feelings that is going on here & there with the Cobell Settlement monies & other treaty settle monies. I think everyone should be listening to the wise ones & wise elders of our many peoples & THEN decide what should be done with these financial blessings. As the Cheyenne say, there is a reason the Creator gave us 2 eyes & 1 mouth: To listen twice as much as we speak. It is true my friends. We are all guilty at one time of another of talking twice as much as we listen while we are young & sometimes being older as well. The results are usually the same I find: Regrets. Great blessings require much prayers, listening to our wise ones & reasoning I have found.

Disenrolled tribal allotee's picture
Disenrolled tri...
Submitted by Disenrolled tri... on
Quiet Chirper was following the Trickster with an IRS Agent, and a basketful of Federal Criminal Indictments, for the Trickster and the Council members who cheated the banished Prairie Dogs.

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Michael Madrid, I found what you had to say about some of our brethren in Indian Country to be so. It is true the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has been fighting against giving rights to those of African ancestry even though in the 1800's they were part of the Western Cherokee Nation through being slaves & even being married to native people within the tribe & having children. Even Congress told the Tribe they had to give those within the tribe of African ancestry membership as part of a treaty after the Civil War. With this take by those in authority of the Cherokee Nation it makes them come across as racist against those who are of mixed African ancestry. This is wrong my friends. Even though the Civil War was over by 1865, slavery was STILL going on among some in parts of Indian Country in the South till a later time. Read those historical accounts for your own selves & see the truth of this matter. It's long overdue that the Western Cherokee Nation make things right & acknowledge these people for who they truly are: Cherokee people who are able to prove their heritage regardless of their skin tone or the status of their ancestors who were enslaved in days gone by. The Creator made mankind. Mankind made slaves.

builds-the-fire's picture
Submitted by builds-the-fire on
I appreciate articles like this because they can make people think. When they came for those DNA, African, and "ethnic" Indians, I didn't speak up, finally they came for me, a full-blood Native American, but there wasn't even a DNA Indian to speak up for me, and I lost even the little land beneath my feet... The government of the U.S. has truly begun in earnest to disregard the population that makes up Turtle Island. No surprises there, right? From the 2010 Census Web site: "Please note: Data for American Indian and Alaska Native areas are shown for the portion within each state, and only as each state's data are released." Note the words "and only" in the quote above. 550 plus Nations within a Nation means nothing if there are only two people in each Nation. Following are links from the main page of The Older Population Congressional Apportionment Housing Characteristics The White Population The Black Population The Hispanic Population Age and Sex Composition Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010 An Overview: Race and Hispanic Origin and the 2010 Census Notice anyone missing? It's time Native American nations became the people God has reserved them to be and stopped internal racism and fighting over money. The 2000 Census and the 2010 Census lists "American Indian and Alaska Native" as 0.9% of the total U.S. population: 0.9%--not even a full percentage point. What government group feels compelled to pay attention to, or oblige, a people who make up less than 1% of the total population? Though I am still looking for my Native American family nations, and I feel strongly that I need to reconnect our family with our ancestors who were full blood Native American, I feel it's imperative for Native America membership to grow, not shrink or stagnate.