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CORN HUSK DOLLS


PAPAGO


IROQUOIS

       


APACHE


SIOUX

Corn husk dolls have been around for centuries. Early arrivals to the United States admired the beautiful, simplistic dolls that Native American children made from corn and fashioned to resemble members of their tribe. They're a perfect craft and activity for children of all ages, and make for unique and lively decorations.
  HOW TO MAKE CORN HUSK DOLLS
  IROQUOIS LEGEND OF THE CORN HUSK DOLL
  SENECA STORY OF THE CORN HUSK DOLL
  NATIVE AMERICAN ORIGINS OF MAIZE
  CORN CEREMONIES
  INDIAN CORN OF THE AMERICAS
  EVOLUTION OF MAIZE AGRICULTURE
  MAIZE IN NEW ENGLAND

 

IROQUOIS LEGEND OF THE CORN HUSK DOLL
http://www.aaanativearts.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=174
 
The Iroquois people have what they call the three sisters, the "sustainers of life". These sisters are called corn, beans, and squash.

The corn Spirit was so thrilled at being one of the sustainers of life that she asked the Creator what more she could do for her people. The Creator said that a beautiful doll could be formed from the husks.

The Creator set to work to form the doll. When finished he gave the doll a beautiful face, and sent it to the children of the Iroquois people to play with, and to make them happy.

The doll went from village to village playing with the children and doing whatever she could for the children.

Everywhere she went everyone would tell her how beautiful she was, so after a while she became vain.

The Creator spoke to her and explained that this was not the right kind of behavior, and she agreed not to be this way anymore.

The Creator told her that if she continued with this behavior he would punish her, but he would not tell her how he would do it.

She agreed not to act that way again, and things went on as before.

One afternoon she was walking by a creek and she glanced into the water. As she admired herself, she couldn't help thinking how beautiful she was, because indeed she was beautiful.

At this time Creator sent a giant screech owl out of the sky and it snatched her reflection from the water. When she looked again, she had no reflection. This was the punishment the Creator put upon her.

When an Iroquois Mother makes a doll for her child, she tells them this legend.

This is to remind the child that it is wrong to think they are better then any one else, and they must know that the Creator has given a special gift to everyone.
SENECA STORY OF THE CORN HUSK DOLL
This legend is told by Mrs. Snow, a talented Seneca craftswoman.
http://www.nativetech.org/cornhusk/dollstry.html 
 
Many, many years ago, the corn, one of the Three Sisters, wanted to make something different.

She made the moccasin and the salt boxes, the mats, and the face. She wanted to do something different so the Great Spirit gave her permission.

So she made the little people out of corn husk and they were to roam the earth so that they would bring brotherhood and contentment to the Iroquois tribe.

But she made one that was very, very beautiful. This beautiful corn person, you might call her, went into the woods and saw herself in a pool. She saw how beautiful she was and she became very vain and naughty.

That began to make the people very unhappy and so the Great Spirit decided that wasn't what she was to do.

She didn't pay attention to his warning, so the last time the messenger came and told her that she was going to have her punishment.

Her punishment would be that she'd have no face, she would not converse with the Senecas or the birds or the animals. She'd roam the earth forever, looking for something to do to gain her face back again. So that's why we don't put any faces on the husk dolls.
From: Our Mother Corn Mather/Fernandes/Brescia 1981
 
NATIVE AMERICAN ORIGINS OF MAIZE
http://www.nativetech.org/cornhusk/index.html
 
Many Native American traditions, stories and ceremonies surround corn, one of the "three sisters" (maize, beans and squash).

Even in New England there are many variations on how maize was brought or introduced to Native Americans here.

Generally in southern New England, maize is described as a gift of Cautantowwit, a deity associated with the southwestern direction; that kernels of maize and beans were delivered by the crow, or in other versions the black-bird.

Responsible for bringing maize, the crow would not be harmed even for damaging the cornfield.

Other Algonquian legends recount maize brought by a person sent from the Great Spirit as a gift of thanks.

 
CORN CEREMONIES
http://www.nativetech.org/cornhusk/index.html
 
New England tribes from the Mohegan in Connecticut to the Iroquois in the Great Lakes region had rituals and ceremonies of thanksgiving for the planting and harvesting of corn.

One ceremony, the Green Corn ceremony of New England tribes, accompanies the fall harvest.

Around August Mohican men return from temporary camps to the village to help bring in the harvest and to take part in the Green Corn ceremony which celebrates the first fruits of the season.

Many tribes also had ceremonies for seed planting to ensure healthy crops as well as corn testing ceremonies once the crops were harvested.

 
INDIAN CORN OF THE AMERICAS
http://www.aaanativearts.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=550
 
Corn was a very important crop for the people of the northeast woodlands. It was the main food and was eaten at every meal. There were many varieties of corn -- white, blue, yellow and red.

Some of the corn was dried to preserve and keep it for food throughout the winter months. Dried corn could be made into a food called hominy. To make hominy, the dried corn was soaked in a mixture of water and ashed for two days. When the kernels had puffed up and split open, they were drained and rinsed in cold water. Then the hominy was stir-fried over a fire. You can buy canned hominy in most grocery stores. Perhaps someone in your class would like to bring some for everyone to sample.

Corn was often ground into corn meal, using wooden mortars and pestles. The mortars were made of short logs which were turned upright and hollowed out on the top end. The corn was put in the hollow part and ground by pounding up and down with a long piece of wood which was rounded on both ends. This was called a pestle. Corn meal could be used to make cornbread, corn pudding, corn syrup, or could be mixed with beans to make succotash. A special dessert was made by boiling corn meal and maple syrup.

All parts of the corn plant were used. Nothing was thrown away. The husks were braided and woven to make masks, moccasins, sleeping mats, baskets, and cornhusk dolls. Corncobs were used for fuel, to make darts for a game, and were tied onto a stick to make a rattle for ceremonies.

Corn was unknown to the Europeans before they met the Indians. Indians gave them the seeds and taught them how to grow it. Today in the U.S.A., more farm land is used to grow corn (60 million acres) than any other grain.
 
EVOLUTION OF MAIZE AGRICULTURE
http://www.nativetech.org/cornhusk/index.html
 
Corn or maize (zea mays) is a domesticated plant of the Americas. Along with many other indigenous plants like beans, squash, melons, tobacco, and roots such as Jerusalem artichoke, European colonists in America quickly adopted maize agriculture from Native Americans. Crops developed by Native Americans quickly spread to other parts of the world as well.

Over a period of thousands of years, Native Americans purposefully transformed maize through special cultivation techniques. Maize was developed from a wild grass (Teosinte) originally growing in Central America (southern Mexico) 7,000 years ago. The ancestral kernels of Teosinte looked very different from today's corn. These kernels were small and were not fused together like the kernels on the husked ear of early maize and modern corn.

By systematically collecting and cultivating those plants best suited for human consumption, Native Americans encouraged the formation of ears or cobs on early maize. The first ears of maize were only a few inches long and had only eight rows of kernels. Cob length and size of early maize grew over the next several thousand years which gradually increased the yields of each crop.

Eventually the productivity of maize cultivation was great enough to make it possible and worthwhile for a family to produce food for the bulk of their diet for an entire year from a small area. Although maize agriculture permitted a family to live in one place for an extended period of time, the commitment to agriculture involved demands on human time and labor and often restricted human mobility. The genetic alterations in teosinte changed its value as a food resource and at the same time affected the human scheduling necessary for its effective procurement.

 
MAIZE IN NEW ENGLAND
http://www.nativetech.org/cornhusk/index.html
 
As the lifeways of mobile hunting and gathering were often transformed into sedentary agricultural customs, very slowly the cultivation of maize, along with beans and squash, was introduced into the southwestern and southeastern parts of North America. The practice of maize agriculture did not reach southern New England until about a thousand years ago.

A Penobscot man described the transformation of maize for the shorter growing season of northern New England. Maize was observed to grow in a series of segments, like other members of the grass family, which took approximately one phase of the moon to form, with approximately seven segments in all, from which ears were produced only at the joints of the segments. Native Americans of northern New England gradually encouraged the formation of ears at the lower joints of the stalk by planting kernels from these ears. Eventually, as ears were regularly produced at the lower joints of the cornstalk, the crop was adapted to the shorter growing season of the north and matured within three months of planting.

Native Americans of New England planted corn in household gardens and in more extensive fields adjacent to their villages. Fields were often cleared by controlled burning which enriched not only the soil but the plant and animal communities as well. Slash and burn agriculture also helped create an open forest environment, free of underbrush, which made plant collecting and hunting easier.

Agricultural fields consisted of small mounds of tilled earth, placed a meter or two apart sometimes in rows and other times randomly placed. Kernels of corn and beans were planted in the raised piles of soil to provide the support of the cornstalk for the bean vine to grow around. The spaces in between the mounds were planted with squash or melon seeds. The three crops complemented each other both in the field and in their combined nutrition.

Native Americans discovered that, unlike wild plants and animals, a surplus of maize could be grown and harvested without harming their environment. Tribes in southern New England harvested great amounts of maize and dried them in heaps upon mats. The drying piles of maize, usually two or three for each Narragansett family, often contained from 12 to 20 bushels of the grain. Surplus maize would be stored in underground storage pits, ingeniously constructed and lined with grasses to prevent mildew or spoiling, for winter consumption of the grain.

The European accounts of Josselyn in 1674, indicate Native Americans used bags and sacks to store powdered cornmeal, "which they make use of when stormie weather or the like will not suffer them to look out for their food". Parched cornmeal made an excellent food for traveling. Roger Williams in 1643, describes small traveling baskets: "I have travelled with neere 200. of them at once, neere 100. miles through the woods, every man carrying a little Basket of this [Nokehick] at his back, and sometimes in a hollow Leather Girdle about his middle, sufficient for a man three or foure daies".

Below are Links to the Corn Husk Doll Pages
How To Make Corn Husk Dolls ] Printer Friendly How To Make Corn Husk Dolls ] [ Corn Husk Dolls and Corn Info ]

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