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Native American Maize (Corn) Mythology

Corn, also known as maize, is the most important food crop of the Americas, cultivated by hundreds of different tribes. Even some tribes who were too nomadic or lived too far north to grow it themselves had corn as part of their diet, since they traded extensively with corn-farming neighbors. Corn is one of the Three Sisters of the northeastern tribes, so called because corn, squash, and beans were traditionally planted together by Native American farmers.

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Corn played an important mythological role in many tribes as well-- in some cultures Corn was a respected deity, while in others, corn was a special gift to the people from the Creator or culture hero. In addition to its importance as a food source, corn also played a ceremonial role in many tribes, with sacred corn pollen or cornmeal being used as ritual adornment and spiritual offerings.

Although the word "corn" comes from a general Old English word for a cereal seed (related to "kernal,") the word "maize" has Native American origins: it comes from the Spanish version of the indigenous Taino word for the plant, maiz. The names of several corn dishes also come from Native American languages: hominy, pone and succotash (from Eastern Algonquian languages), sagamite (from Cree,) and chicha (from the Nahuatl, or Aztec language.)

Corn is a common clan symbol in many Native American cultures. Tribes with Corn Clans include the Muskogee Creek tribe (whose Corn Clan was named Atchialgi or Vce'vlke in the Muskogee language), the Navajo, the Mohave, and the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico (many of whom have multiple Corn Clans such as the Blue Corn Clan and Yellow Corn Clan.) Many tribes, such as the Caddo and the Pueblo tribes, also have a Corn Dance among their tribal dance traditions.

Native American Corn Gods and Spirits

Atna (Arikara)
Chicha (South American)
Corn Maidens/Kachina Mana (Hopi)
Corn Mother (Wabanaki)
Little-Giver (Seminole)
Mondawmin (Ojibwe)
Selu (Cherokee)
*Spirit of the Corn (Iroquois)
*Unknown Woman (Choctaw)

Native American Legends About Corn

Corn Mother * The Strange Origin of Corn * The Abenaki Emergence:
    Abenaki and Penobscot Indian legends of how First Mother brought corn to the people.
The Three Sisters:
    Native American legends from the Northeast Woodlands about the cooperation of Corn, Squash and Beans.
*Wunzh, Father of Indian Corn * Chippewa Corn Story * The Legend of Indian Corn:
    Ojibwe legends about how Native Americans learned to plant corn.
*The Union of Corn and Bean:
    Ottawa Indian legend about why corn and beans are always planted together.
*Legend of the Potawatomi Indians: * The Origin of Corn and Other Crops:
    Potawatomi stories about the Corn Spirit becoming the father of the first people.
*Corn Medicine:
    Menominee legend in which the people received the gift of corn in a dream.
*The Coming of Corn:
    Sauk legend about the origin of corn, beans, and tobacco.
*Corn Mother:
    Legend about how the Lenapes lost and regained corn.
*The Old Woman of the Spring:
    Legend of how corn came to the Cheyennes.
*Kanati and Selu:
    Cherokee legend about the corn goddess Selu and the origin of hunting and agriculture.
*How Corn Came to Earth:
    The Arikara myth about the beginning of the world.
*The First To Know Maize:
    Arikara story about the boy who first tasted corn. ">An Address To Mother Corn:
    Speech from the Arikara Corn Ceremony.
*The Forgotten Ear of Corn:
    Arikara legend about caring for the corn.
*Coyote Turns Into A Corn Mill:
    Caddo legend about Coyote figuring out how to get a free lunch.

Recommended Books of Corn Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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Four Seasons of Corn:
    Interesting photoessay on the importance of corn to the traditional lives of the Hochunk people.
Ziiniyah: How The Corn Was Saved:
    Beautiful picture book illustrating a Navajo Indian corn legend about a boy who goes on a quest to save his people's crops.
Selu and Kana'ti: Cherokee Corn Mother and Lucky Hunter:
    Children's book depicting the Cherokee Indian corn myth.
The Sun's Daughter:
    Picture book based on an Iroquois Indian legend about the three sisters Maize, Red Bean, and Pumpkin.
Seeking The Corn-Mother's Wisdom:
    Compelling book of Cherokee Indian stories and spirituality by a Native author, revolving around Selu the Corn Mother.
How Spirit Dog Made The Milky Way * The Story of the Milky Way:
    Picture books based on a Cherokee legend about how the Milky Way was made from spilled cornmeal.
*The Stone Cutter and the Navajo Maiden:
    Lovely children's book about the meaning of the sacred corn-grinding stone to Navajo culture.
Native Plant Stories:
    Excellent collection of Native American stories about plants, by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.
Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden:
    Interesting book about Native American farming traditions narrated by a Hidatsa woman.
Native American Food Plants:
    Comprehensive book on the names and traditional uses of food plants throughout Native North America.

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