There is a creation story at the center of every culture. For the Nez Perce, the story of their people begins at the ‘Heart of the Monster.” As the story goes… A monster was eating all of the animals. Coyote fooled the monster into swallowing him. Using a set of stone knives that he had brought with him, Coyote cut apart the monster from the inside to release all of the animals that were trapped in the monster. Upon emerging from the remains of the monster, Coyote cut it up and threw the pieces all over the land, creating the Indian people who inhabit the land. Fox asked Coyote about the land around the monster, it had no people, what was he to do? As Coyote washed the blood of the monster off his hands, the drops became the Nez Perce.
Many of the prominent landmarks seen in this area likely have a story attached to them. The Nez Perce National Historical Park interprets three of these story sites: Ant and Yellowjacket, Coyote’s Fishnet and the Heart of the Monster. Each of these sites involves Coyote, who makes an appearance in many Nez Perce stories in a variety of different forms.