Corn / by Karie Luidens


Corn: one of the oldest cultivated crops in the Americas, tallest of the Three Sisters, and the first type of seed that I selected for my garden. 

Corn is, and has been for thousands of years, one of the most important foods in the Native American diet. Considered to be the essence of life, corn is sacred to the people. In fact, prayers are offered to corn, as Mother, at many ceremonial dances. The Tewa-speaking Pueblos speak of two corn mothers who were present before the emergence from a former life within this earth: a white corn mother and a blue corn mother. In other Pueblos and tribes, corn may be referred to as Maiden or Sister. The focus is slightly different in each instance, but the ideas of corn as mother, enabler, transformer, and healer are components of the same concept.

Throughout the Southwest, there is a recognition that it is necessary to sing the corn to maturity, to sing to it in order for it to grow healthy and productive. The people ask for blessings from the corn, and ask for the corn to come up strong so that it might feed the people and no one will go hungry.

For Diné [Navajo] people, corn is revered as a food and because it yields pollen, which is important in their healing rituals. For the Diné more than any other peoples, corn is a healer. 

For the Tohono O’odham, or “Desert People,” and the Akimiel O’odham, or “Salt River People,” corn is revered and they know it as mother. Again, there were and are songs for all stages of the corn’s growth, as well as for the beans and the squash. (Lois Ellen Frank, Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations p 25)