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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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The Iroquois White Corn Project At Ganondagan
by Amy Blum

It's easy to tell when it's corn-roasting day at the small white farmhouse that serves as home to the Iroquois White Corn Project (IWCP) at Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, NY. The wonderful earthy aroma wafts through the farmhouse as IWCP Manager Kim Morf (Mohawk) and a couple of volunteers carefully watch the hulled white corn spinning in a large coffee roaster, transforming into a rich, roasted brown color.

Ganondagan State Historic Site has been home to the Iroquois White Corn Project since 2011. It was brought there by Site Manager Peter Jemison (Seneca) after the original project, the Pinewoods Community Farming at the Cattaraugus Reservation, went dormant after the passing of its co-founders, Drs. John Mohawk (Seneca) and his wife, Yvonne Dion-Buffalo (Samson Cree).

"Mohawk and Dion-Buffalo created the IWCP with the vision and desire to bring our corn back as a staple of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations, or Iroquois) diet," notes Morf. "They were very concerned about Native nutrition and the diabetes epidemic among our people. For them, the IWCP's goal was to return physical health and spiritual nutrition to the Ongwehonwe (Real People)."

At the height of its success, the corn products produced at Pinewoods were in-demand by top chefs nationwide for their taste, versatility, and nutrition. The gluten-free corn is also non GMO, high in protein and fiber, and has a low-glycemic index.

Hand-Braiding: After the corn is husked, it is braided traditionally and hung to dry through the winter in a corn crib before use. Photo: Laticia McNaughton

These same attributes are key to the success of the IWCP, which is overseen by the non-profit Friends of Ganondagan organization. As was done by the Haudenosaunee for at least 1,000 years, the corn is grown without chemicals or pesticides, then picked, husked, braided, shucked and washed by hand in traditional ash splint baskets. The concept of "A Good Mind" is also omnipresent at the IWCP, understanding that the positive energy and intent put into the corn will be passed onto those who eat it, continuing the cycle of loving energy.

A Good Mind: Everyone who works with the corn comes to it with "a good mind," meaning that the positive, loving energy we put into the corn will be felt by those who eat it, and they in turn, will pass it along to others. Photo: Amy Blum

Three products—Hulled White Corn, White Corn Flour, and Roasted White Corn Flour—are available for sale at the Farmhouse, through the Iroquois White Corn website, at local Finger Lakes area Farmers Markets, and select retailers and distributors.

3 Products: The Iroquois White Corn Project sells three products: Hulled White Corn, White Corn Flour, and Roasted White Corn Flour. Photo: Laticia McNaughton.

The Hulled White Corn is a star in soups, stews, casseroles, salsas, salads, and in any recipe calling for hominy or beans. For White Corn Flour, the hulled corn is stone ground into a medium- to fine-grind flour and works as a delicious corn mush and in recipes using regular corn meal, corn flour, or gluten-free flour in baked goods. It is also used successfully as a flavorful and nutritious thickener. The Roasted White Corn Flour is created when the hulled corn is roasted, imparting a rich, nutty flavor, then stone ground to a medium-grind flour. Its taste enhances numerous baked goods like cookies, breads, muffins, as well as pancakes or in recipes calling for regular corn meal or flour, as in a coating for fish or chicken.

Testing for Doneness: Once the hulled corn is roasted, we test for doneness by color, assuring the best possible product we can provide. Photo: Amy Blum

The IWCP is constantly adding to its online recipe collection, and encourages the community-at-large to try out the products and send in their own recipes at

For generations, the Elders have taught the importance of food, families, and their connection. "Elder Joan Longboat (Mohawk)—a traditional herbalist and healer—teaches that 'eating the right foods, eating slow food…keeps our body in balance,' " says Morf. "Longboat recollects that the old people used to say 'your food is medicine' because it's so full of vitamins and minerals."

Ken Parker (Seneca) is director of Food Is Our Medicine, a partnership between the Seneca Nation of Indians and the Seneca Diabetes Foundation.

"Our White Corn was the staple food of our community. It is an ancient heirloom and a true reflection of the Haudenosaunee and the Seneca cultural identity. Corn in the Northeast most certainly predates European settlement. It is well documented by the Europeans during the Revolutionary War of how vast the cornfields were and the great skill the Seneca's exhibited as a sophisticated agricultural society. We now understand better the high nutritional value of our White Corn. The process of using wood ashes to break down the seed coat actually aids in the release of niacin, an important protein, and calcium as well. As an agricultural society, beans and squash were a very important component to the Haudenosaunee and this made for a complete and essential diet."

3 Sisters Salad: The hulled corn is perfect for use in any recipe calling for beans or hominy. Here, it is a tasty and nutritious addition to a salad, along with the beans, squash and other ingredients. Watching over the salad are the three sisters cornhusk dolls, made by Ganondagan's Ronnie Reitter (Seneca). Photo: Laticia McNaughton

Parker notes that more than 60% of our global food crops are of American and Native American origins. These includes: potato, sweet potato, sunchokes, tomato, beans, squash, sunflower, pumpkin, peppers, strawberry, blueberry, cranberry, pawpaw, ground nuts, pecans, black walnut, hickory nuts, maple sugar & syrup.

All the corn products are picked, husked, braided, hulled, washed and packaged by hand, as did the Haudenosaunee ancestors. The labor-intensive process is important in quality control and respecting the ancestors. Photo: Amy Blum

Organizations like the Iroquois White Corn Project help bring awareness and public education about the importance of white corn consumption. "Just as important is to educate about traditional preparation, and highlight the innovations the Iroquois community has made in growing White Corn over the generations," continues Parker. "The general public is completely unaware of our history and how the Europeans and their wars changed our corn history. Their impact is still felt by the Senecas today, as roasted corn is a traditional meal. This is a reflection of when General Sullivan's army burned our cornfields."

Parker's remarks have particular resonance with Ganondagan. The 17th-century Seneca town of Ganondagan ("Town of Peace") was a successful farming community inhabited by up to 4,500 people. In 1687, seeing the Seneca as a threat in the profitable Fur Trade, a French army under the Marquis de Denonville marched from New France (Canada) toward Ganondagan to destroy it by burning down the corn. The people fled to nearby locations but never returned to the town. Nearly a century later, the corn was again destroyed when Generals Sullivan and Clinton were ordered by General George Washington to burn a number of towns in the Finger Lakes area.

It is not lost on anyone visiting or working at the Iroquois White Corn Project that, more than 300 years later, the corn finally is back where it belongs.

More information on the Iroquois White Corn Project as well as Ganondagan can be found at











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