In the folklore of the Costanoan, a native people of the Northern California coast, there is a story about Coyote, the trickster figure from whom all human beings descended. One day, Coyote caught a fish, but he didn’t want to share, even with his children. As he cooked the fish over the fire, he covered it with ash to hide the meat. When he felt hungry, he plucked up some of the food and ate it. “You’re eating fire!” his children cried. “You’ll be burned!” But when he seemed all right they wanted to eat fire, too. Coyote, still hungry, forbade them. “You’ll be burned,” he said. His children got no fish.

We feel some injustice here, don’t we? Something not quite right.

It wasn’t Coyote’s fault he could catch a fish. Nor was it wrong to cover the fish. And when his hungry children wanted to eat fire he spoke only a simple truth, “You will be burned”. He used that truth to cover his wish not to share the fish. His offence was telling a story of community responsibility to obscure his self interest.

So why do we talk about Coyote and salmon and hungry pups?

When a request was made to change the zoning of 521 Main, to allow its use as a Library/Museum Complex, the majority of Council said, “We’ll lose taxes!” They sent out a full page public notice, telling their story of grave community responsibility. Somehow it slipped their minds to tell us that the Library occupies 2 lots and the Museum uses 2 lots naturally positioned to be commercial, in total 4 lots that haven’t paid taxes in living history! These lots, when sold, would begin paying taxes and produce a tidy down payment on 521 Main.

“But wait,” you say, “what about the obscured self interest?” Just ask around, but I bet it has something to do with a building owner, McBride Community Forest, and someone saying “Over my dead body.”

Len McCarty, McBride B.C.