Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
May 6, 2000 - Issue 09

Corn-One of Three Sisters
by Vicki Lockard adapted from various sources

Corn, squash and beans were once known as the “Three Sisters” by our native peoples - sisters who should never be apart - sisters who should be planted together. These three plants were important sources of food. In fact, corn was very important to the survival of the first English colonists during their first winters in northeastern America. The survival of the early colonists depended on what corn they could beg, borrow or steal from the native peoples plus what they were able to grow under their guidance.

It is believed that corn dates back even further than the inhabitance of native people. Corn’s origin is believed to be in the Mexican plateau or the highlands of Guatemala. Fossil pollen grains of corn have been found in drill cores of lake sediment beneath Mexico City. These sediments could be 80,000 years old or more.

Corn belongs to the grass family. Theory suggests that at one time, each individual kernel was covered by its own floral parts similar to the kernels of oats and barley, and that the cob readily broke down into small segments. It is believed that this has allowed corn as a species to survive. The husk and cob as we know them today were gradually developed from wild varieties by the native population.

When Jacques Cartier visited the village of Hochelaga (now Montreal) in 1535, he noted the extensive corn fields growing in all directions. There are records of Champlain finding corn growing in the area of Georgian Bay in 1615. Archeological studies have found that corn was grown near Campbellville, Ontario before 1200 AD.

Native groups developed the major classes of corn that we recognize today. The types being sweet, popping, flint, flour and dent corns.

From its original use as a food for man, corn now yields over one hundred by-products to industry. A few of the by-products are dyes, paints, oilcloth, oil for soaps, syrups, starches, size and glaze, corn gum (used as a rubber substitute), vegetable substitutes for lard and butter, corn cellulose in press boards and insulating materials and various chemicals.

The livestock industry continues to be the largest user of corn grown. In Ontario, approximately 60% of the crop harvested is fed to livestock. Approximately 30% is used for industrial and commercial uses which leaves about 10% for the export market.

Research continues to find new uses for corn. Environmentally friendly products are one such area. Corn as a renewable resource can be beneficial in making products such as ethanol fuel, ethanol windshield washer fluid, CMA (calcium magnesium acetate) road de-icer, and other degradable products made from corn starch.

Corn is as important today to mankind as it was in the beginning to native peoples. According to Indian legend, corn was of divine origin - “it was the food of the gods that created the earth.”

For more information on corn/maize visit this site:

The Maize Page

Corny Stuff To Do - Have Fun

Corn Husk Doll is Easy and Fun

North American Indians were the first to invent a corn husk doll. Corn husks were dried, tied and fashioned into chiefs, warriors and women. Then faces were painted, and sometimes sticks were added for arms and legs.

The doll is created with corn husks and yarn, and - when correctly tied - will include all the body features with glue. To begin the project:

Gather 12 corn husks, yarn or string. To make the head, tie the husks a little way down from the top knot. Gather three of the husks and tie them together halfway down for an arm. Gather and tie three more husks at the opposite side of the doll to form the other arm. Cut away most of the excess corn husk that is below the knots.

To make the body, tie the remaining corn husks halfway between the head and their ends.

Make the legs by taking three husks and tying them together a little up from their ends. Make the other leg the same way.

Now that your doll is finished, use your imagination in decorating.

Plant Your Own Corn

This project is rated VERY EASY to do.

What You Need

Kernels of popcorn
Ziploc bag

How To Make It

Place some dirt in a Ziploc bag, add some water and a few kernels of popcorn.

Seal the bag and place it in a sunny window. You should see some growth within a week.

Unscramble the following list of food items that contain corn.
nroc sekalf c_ _ _ f_ a _ _ _
cei earcm _ c _ _ _ _ _ m
oads s _ _ _
nuteap ttreub _ e _ _ u _ _ u _ _ e _
upchket k _ _ _ h _ _
alads ingsserd s _ l _ _ d _ e _ _ _ _ g
ylelj _ e _ _ _
mallmarowssh _ a _ s _ _ _ _ l _ _ s
meanrirga m _ _ g _ _ _ _ _
tcoa hipcs _ a _ o _ _ i _ _

Look for the answers following the Gift of Maize story!

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