Native American Legends
How Corn came to the Earth
An American Indian Legend - Nation Unknown
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 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
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 traveled, 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
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
Nesaru was displeased by the behavior 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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