Many people are familiar with the concept of the “trickster.” Old stories from diverse cultures are full of such wily characters, whether embodied by a spider, a fox, a hare, a coyote or some other wild being. In various land-based cultures of North America, coyote often shows up as the trickster. It is through the antics of coyote (and other trickster figures) that wisdom and many important teachings—disguised in mishaps, humor and transformational situations—are coded and passed down to the young.
How does this relate to mentoring? Mentoring is a time-tested form of reciprocal relationship through which vital skills and embodied knowledge about the world and our various roles within it as human beings are passed down from generation to generation. The term “coyote mentoring” acknowledges that this kind of reciprocal relationship through which wisdom and teachings are transferred is deeply supported by the energy of the trickster/transformer. In addition, coyote—ecologically speaking—is incredibly adaptable, creative and responsive to whatever specific conditions she finds herself in. Mentoring is best when it happens with the same creativity and responsiveness that coyote embodies.
The term “cultural mentoring” is sometimes used interchangeably with “coyote mentoring.” Culture is a sneaky word. What is it, truly? Jon Young, founder of the Wilderness Awareness School, often defines culture not by what it is but by what it does: namely, connect people to themselves, each other and the land upon which we all depend. In this sense, cultural mentoring indicates that mentoring is a process through which the practices that connect people to the land, others and self are passed on across generations.
Cultural Mentoring Ecological Education With The Coyote Method
This is the basis of ecological education as Weaving Earth understands it—to resurrect and protect cultural practices that foster in every human being a sense of belonging to this planet, within a community and also within the body into which we are born. It is likely that all people alive on earth come from lineages that at some point in history knew intimately within their ecosystem how to connect people to the land, each other and themselves.
War, conquest, colonialism, patriarchy, racism, sexism and other systems of oppression have led to the tragic loss of many of these place-based traditions, as well as the marginalization or outright destruction of various peoples who carried this important and diverse cultural knowledge. As we work to remember our deep connection and right relationship with the Earth, ourselves, and each other, we acknowledge that addressing this history is a critical part of the work.