home bookshop feed the hungry   earthly pursuits logo
what's new old book library safe seed pledge  
contact about books about food & recipes  
links I  II   garden tips  
search flower language blether  
  alphabetized flowers     flowers by meaning companion planting  
    click here to make a
"free" contribution to earthly pursuits

Vegetables :






Corn The Great American Cereal
Corn and the Early Colonies

2 Corn and the Indian
3a Photos - Corn & Tools
3b Photos - Indians in corn fields
4a Photos - Corn Drying & Hopi field
4b Photos - Mortar and Pestles
5 Kinds of Corn Grown by the Indians.
6 Primitive Seed-testing Methods.
The Nettle Seed Tester
7 Primitive Corn-Planting Methods
8 Indian Cornfields
Primitive Tools
9 Plants as Indicators of the Season
10 Seed Selection and Storing

Indian Corn Foods


Primitive and Modern Methods of Culture
13 Corn and the Westward Movement
14 Corn and the Packing Industry
15 The Silo and the Corn Crop
16 Variations of the Corn Plant
17 Corn and the Struggle for Democracy



From the Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture 1918
page 2

By H. Howard Biggar,
Office of Corn Investigations, Bureau of Plant Industry.


   Upon the Indian, the first grower of corn, the cultivation of maize has exerted a more or less striking influence. Its cultivation in large fields made necessary a banding together of the individuals of the tribes. It was a sort of community or cooperative undertaking. With the cultivation of maize, the Indian brought northward the art of pottery making. Schoolcraft, the historian, states that mound building is associated with the growing of corn, being made necessary as a means of defense and easily accomplished because of the communal method of living.
   The development of corn growing among the Indians encouraged the trading spirit. The corn of the Huron Indians in New York was exchanged for furs and other commodities. The agricultural Indian tribes of the Missouri Valley in North Dakota early developed a trade in corn and vegetables with the white traders and explorers, thus enabling the latter better to carry on their operations. They also traded with the hunting tribes of the plains, securing furs, horses, and weapons, thus enabling them better to withstand invasion from powerful enemies. To the Plains hunters, the securing of corn meant prevention of famine in seasons when the hunting was poor. The trading equivalent of corn in the early days indicates its importance in the opinion of the Indian. Buffalo Bird Woman, a Gros Ventre of the Fort Berthold Reservation, states that a buffalo robe used to be given in exchange for a braid of corn containing about 50 ears. Red Bear, an Arikara of the same reservation, states that the Sioux Indians used to give his people a horse in exchange for 10 braids of corn.
   The presentation of corn as a gift to other tribes and to the whites was common. It was the sign of friendship. Verendrye, in 1738, was met near the Mandan village, in what is now North Dakota, by a messenger who presented him with corn. Lewis and Clark, who wintered near this village, Maximillian and Verendrye, as well as other white traders and explorers, probably would have found it impossible to carry on their operations without the food (principally corn) obtained from the village Indians of the upper Missouri Valley.
   Corn came to us as a gift from the Indians. Doubtless no other word in the Indian vocabulary is so important to the Indian, since for generations corn was the main food plant. The Indian's regard for corn is really a veneration. In the Middle West, the Corn Priest proclaimed the time to plant and to harvest the fields of corn and from time to time prayed that the crop might be a productive one. In the Southwest, corn shrines, corn dances, and numerous corn ceremonies are evidence of the regard of the Navajo, the Hopi, and the Zuni for their favorite cereal.
   A study of the methods of corn culture of the various Indian tribes is of interest as showing the beginnings of what are now widely adopted practices. It also affords us an idea of primitive adaptation to conditions.


     previous / next