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How Corn Came to the Earth

 Native American Lore


  
    A long time ago giants lived on the earth, and they were so strong
    they were not afraid of anything. When they stopped giving smoke
    to the gods of the four directions, Nesaru looked down upon them
    and was angry. "I made the giants too strong," Nesaru said. "I will
    not keep them. They think that they are like me. I shall destroy them
    by covering the earth with water, but I will save the ordinary people.
 
    Nesaru sent the animals  to lead the ordinary people into a cave so
    large that all the animals and people could live there together. Then
    he sealed up the cave and flooded the earth so that all the giants
    drowned. To remind himself that people were under the ground
    waiting to be released after the floodwaters were gone, Nesaru
    planted corn in the sky. As soon as the corn ripened, he took an ear
    from the field and turned it into a woman. She was the
    Mother-Corn.
 
    "You must go down to the earth," Nesaru told her, "and bring my
    people out from under the ground. Lead them to the place where
    the sun sets, for their home shall be in the west."

    Mother-Corn went down to the earth, and when she heard thunder
    in the east she followed the sound into the cave where the people
    were waiting. But the entrance closed behind her, and she could
    find no way to lead the people out upon the earth. "We must leave
    this place, this darkness," she told them. "There is light above the
    ground. Who will help me take my people out of the earth?"

    The Badger came forward and said: "Mother-Corn, I will help."
    The Mole also stood up and said: "I will help the Badger dig
    through the ground, that we may see the light." Then the
    long-nosed Mouse came and said: "I will help the other two."

    The Badger began to dig upwards. After a while he fell back
    exhausted. "Mother-Corn, I am very tired," he said. Then the Mole
    dug until he could dig no more. The long-nosed Mouse took the
    Mole's place, and when he became tired, the Badger began to dig
    again. The three took turns until at last the long nosed Mouse thrust
    his nose through the ground and could see a little light.

 
    The Mouse went back and said: "Mother-Corn, I ran my nose
    through the earth until I saw light, but the digging has made my
    nose small and pointed. After this all the people will know by my
    nose that it was I who dug through the earth first."
 
    The Mole now went up to the hole and dug all the way through. The
   sun had come up from the east, and it was so bright it blinded the
    Mole. He ran back and said: "Mother-Corn, I have been blinded by
    the brightness of that sun. I cannot live upon the earth any more. I
    must make my home under the earth. From this time all the Moles
    will be blind so they cannot see in the daylight, but they can see in
    the night. They shall stay under the ground in the daytime."
 
 The Badger then went up  and made the hole larger so the people
    could go through. When he crawled outside the Badger closed his
    eyes, but the rays of the sun struck him and blackened his legs and
    made a streak of black upon his face. He went back down and said:
    "Mother-Corn, I have received these black marks upon me, and I
    wish that I might remain this way so that people will remember that
    I was one of those who helped to get your people out."

    "Very well," said Mother-Corn, "let it be as you say."

    She then led the way out, and the people rejoiced that they were
    now upon the open land. While they were standing there in the
    sunshine, Mother-Corn said: "My people, we will now journey
    westward toward the place where the sun sets. Before we start, any
    who wish to remain here--such as the Badger, Mouse, or Mole--
    may do so." Some of the animals decided to return to their burrows
    in the earth; others wanted to go with Mother-Corn.

    The journey was now begun. As they travelled, they could see a
    mountainous country rising up in front of them. They came to a
    deep canyon. The bluff was too steep for the people to get down,
    and if they should get down, the opposite side was too steep for
    them to climb. Mother-Corn asked for help, and a bluish-grey bird
    flew up, hovering on rapidly beating wings. It had a large bill, a
    bushy crest and a banded breast. The bird was the Kingfisher.
    "Mother-Corn," it said, "I will be the one to point out the way for
    you."

 
   The Kingfisher flew to the other side of the canyon, and with its
    beak pecked repeatedly into the bank until the earth fell into the
    chasm. Then the bird flew back and pecked at the other bank until
    enough earth fell down to form a bridge. The people cried out their
    thanks. "Those who wish to join me," said the Kingfisher, "may
    remain here and we will make our homes in these cliffs." Some
    stayed, but most journeyed on.
 
  After a while they came to another obstacle--a dark forest. The
    trees were so tall they seemed to reach the sun. They grew close
    together and were covered with thorns so that they formed an
    impenetrable thicket. Again Mother-Corn asked for help. This time
    an Owl came and stood before her, and said: "I will make a
    pathway for your people through this forest. Any who wish to
    remain with me may do so, and we shall live in this forest forever."
    The Owl then flew up through the timber. As it waved its wings it
    moved the trees to one side, so that it left a pathway for the people
    to go through. Mother-Corn then led the people through the forest
    and they passed onward.
 
 As they journeyed through the country, all at once they came to a
    big lake. The water was too deep and too wide to cross, and the
    people talked of turning back. But they could not do this, for
    Nesaru had ordered Mother-Corn to lead them always toward the
    west. A water bird with a black head and a checkered back came
    and stood in front of Mother-Corn, and said: "I am the Loon. I will
    make a pathway through this water. Let the people stop crying. I
    shall help them."
 
   Mother-Corn looked at the Loon and said: "Make a pathway for
    us, and some of the people will remain with you here." The Loon
    flew and jumped into the lake, moving so swiftly that it parted the
    waters, and when it came out on the other side of the lake it left a
    pathway behind. Mother-Corn led the people across to dry land,
    and some turned back and became Loons. The others journeyed
    on.
 
   At last they came to a level place beside a river, and Mother- Corn
    told them to build a village there. "Now you shall have my corn to
    plant," she said, "so that you, by eating of it, will grow and also
    multiply." After they built a village and planted the corn,
    Mother-Corn returned to the Upper World.

    The people, however, had no rules or laws to go by, no chiefs or
    medicine men to advise them, and soon they were spending all their
    time at playing games. The first game they played was shinny ball, in
    which they divided into sides and used curved sticks to knock a ball
    through the other's goal. Then they played at throwing lances
    through rings placed upon the ground. As time went on, the players
    who lost games grew so angry that they began killing those who had
    beaten them.

    Nesaru was displeased by the behaviour of the people, and he and
    Mother-Corn came down to earth. He told them that they must
    have a chief and some medicine men to show them how to live.
    While Nesaru taught the people how to choose a chief through tests
    of bravery and wisdom, Mother-Corn taught them songs and
    ceremonies. After they had chosen a chief, Nesaru gave the man his
    own name, and then he taught the medicine men secrets of magic.
    He showed them how to make pipes for offering smoke to the gods
    of the four directions.

    When all this was done, Nesaru went away toward the setting sun to
    prepare a place for new villages. Mother-Corn led the people in his
    tracks across plains and streams to this country where Nesaru had
    planted roots and herbs for the medicine men. There they built
    villages along a river that the white men later called the Republican
    River, in Kansas.

 
 On the first day that they came to this country, Mother-Corn told
    them to offer smoke to the gods in the heavens and to all animal
    gods. While they were doing this, a Dog came running into the camp
    crying, and he accused Mother-Corn of doing wrong by going away
    and leaving him behind. "I came from the Sun," he cried, "and the
    Sun-god is so angry because I was left behind that he is sending the
    Whirlwind to scatter the people."
 
 Mother-Corn called on the Dog to save the people by appeasing the
    Whirlwind. "Only by giving up my freedom," the Dog replied, "can
    I do this. No longer can I hunt alone like my brother the Wolf, or
    roam free like the Coyote. I shall always be dependent upon the
    people."
 
    But when the Whirlwind came spinning and roaring across the land,
    the Dog stood between it and the people. "I shall always remain
    with the people," he shouted to the Whirlwind. "I shall be a
    guardian for all their belongings."
 
    After the wind died away, Mother-Corn said: "The gods are
    jealous. If you forget to give smoke to them they will grow angry
    and send storms.

    In the rich earth beside the river the people planted her corn, and
    then she said: "I shall turn into a Cedar-Tree to remind you that I
    am Mother-Corn, who gave you your life. It was I, Mother- Corn,
    who brought you from the east. I must become a Cedar-Tree to be
    with you. On the right side of the tree will be placed a stone to
    remind you of Nesaru, who brought order and wisdom to the
    people."

    Next morning a Cedar-Tree, full-grown, stood in front of the lodges
    of the people. Beside it was a large stone. The people knew that
    Mother-Corn and Nesaru would watch over them through all time,
    and would keep them together and give them long life.

 

 
 
 
 
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Page created by;Cherokee Wolf
May 14. 1999