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The Portrayal of the Coyote in American Art and Culture

Native American Art

In Native American lore, the coyote is a symbol for intelligence, hunger, and cunning. He is a complex character who embodies both wisdom and naiveté at once. Traditional Native American art often features the coyote, depicted in an astonishing number of different styles and diverse artistic media.

Like wolves, coyotes are stealthy creatures who often live in close quarters with humans, without us ever knowing about their existence. The animal’s dual nature – it has much in common, genetically with the dogs we call “man’s best friend,” yet it eludes easy detection and often appears adversarial and mysterious – lends it serious mythological significance.

In fact, in Native American mythology, the coyote is often a trickster with a coy and rebellious nature. In the lore, he repeatedly uses cunning and intelligence to get out of dangerous situations. This enduring symbol teaches people lessons about the benefits and pitfalls of using sneaky intelligence to obtain goals. Southwest art décor often uses coyote imagery to symbolize Native American folklore. Coyote art is often as beautiful as it is edgy and deceptive.

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For renderings that capture the true nature of the coyote, check out John Nieto’s southwestern art. Many of Nieto’s works feature the Coyote, such as Art Deco Coyote or Trickster Coyote. These colorful paintings, with their bold use of primary colors, shine light on the Native American attitude toward the coyote through time. To see more of John Nieto’s works, visit his online art gallery at


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