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Native American Stories : The Turtle’s Relay Race

Big Turtle

Tales of the North American Indians

The Turtle’s Relay Race

One time a Coyote met a Turtle. The Coyote began to boast of his swiftness, and the Turtle said, “Why, I can beat you [Page 259] running!” So the Coyote said, “We will run a race to-morrow.” That night they parted, and went to their homes, so that they could get ready for the race the next morning. After the Turtle reached home he began to worry, and he could not get to sleep, for he knew that the Coyote could run fast. But the Turtle said to himself: “I will take him up there and go to the other Turtles, and ask them to assist me.” So the Turtle went to the other Turtles, and said: “I am about to run a race with the Coyote. I want you to help me.” He told them the place where they were to run, and the distance they were to run. So several Turtles volunteered to go and help the Turtle to beat the Coyote.
All the Turtles went to the place. They placed one Turtle at the end of the course; then they placed another one at a certain distance back of him; then another back of this one, and so on, and finally the Turtle himself took his stand. Each Turtle carried a long pole, and hid in the ground.
The next morning the Turtle met the Coyote. The Coyote began to run around and was happy, for he thought that he was going to beat the Turtle. The Turtle and the Coyote got ready to start. The Turtle gave the command to start. The Coyote ran and the Turtle crawled into his hole. When he got over a little ridge the Coyote saw the Turtle going ahead of him. Coyote ran and caught up with the Turtle. The Turtle threw his pole away and crawled into the ground. When the Coyote got to another knoll, there was the Turtle ahead of him again. The Coyote caught up with him. The Turtle crawled into the ground. The Coyote ran, and when he got up to another hill, there was the Turtle going ahead. The Coyote caught up with and passed him. At the end, the Turtle was at the goal, and the Coyote got up, and said, “You have beaten me.” This fine stretch of running killed the Coyote.

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