CORN AND THE POWHATAN

CORN is a gift of the North American Indian people to the world. It orignated somewhere in Central America - our traditions say it came from the sky, since it seemed to appear from nowhere, a gift to the Creator.

The gift was marked by a Treaty: Human Beings and Corn had to work together to feed the nations. Each were to depend on the other for their survival. That is why there is no such thing as "wild Corn". By the time Europeans arrived on these shores, the Original American scientists had long before domesticated Corn and bred hundreds of different variations.

The Treaty still works today: Corn is one of the few plants, perhaps the only plant, whose seeds must be planted by human beings if she is to grow and survive. One the other hand, if Corn stopped supplying its nourishment, there would be extreme hunger all over the world. Next time you eat some popCorn or Corn-on-the-cob, you can recognize the benefits of cooperation.

Corn was usually planted with Beans and Squash in the same hole, and they worked together so closely they were called "The Three Sisters". The Corn provided a stalk for the Bean vines to climb around, and the Beans returned the favor by replacing the nitrogen in the soil. The Squash spread out its broad shady leaves to keep other plants from crowding out the Corn. By observing the way the Three Sisters work together, we learn the value of productive inter-relationships of human beings.

Traditionally, we planted the Three Sisters in April, May, and June so we would have a long season of good eating. Usually the outside row od corn was dedicated to the animals, and the next row was dedicated to the use of passers-by who might be hungry. The rest of the rows were for those who planted it. This taught us how to share.

Corn can be eaten fresh or dried. Unless the kernels are parched, dry corn must be ground to flour for humans to receive its nourishment. This requires hard work. Traditionally, while people are working with Corn, they meditate, trying to see themselves more clearly, to answer the big question: "Who am I?" If you have tried to pund corn, perhaps you learned something about yourself in the process!

All parts of the Corn were used: the husks made mats, dolls, masks; the stalks could be used for fuel; even the cobs had their uses. This taught us to value and use all of the Creation's gifts.

We give a great greeting and thanksgiving for our sister Corn and to the Creation which works with her to provide her nourishment to us.

The Late Chief Roy Crazy Horse
Powhatan Renape Nation