Native Spirit: Tradition of white corn

Posted at 8:03 PM, Nov 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-04 15:38:27-05

At a barn on the Oneida Nation Reservation, the white corn harvest is finished and a group inside is hard at work.

"We sit around and husk it," Becky Webster said. "And what that means is we take the husks off of the corn until there's about three husks left."

It's a process that Webster and the others with her are careful to protect.

"There's a lot of reasons why we are trying to grow our white corn," Webster said.

Prior to European contact, white corn made up about 70-percent of the Oneida diet.

"It's part of our creation story, it's part of a lot of our oral traditions throughout time," Webster said. "The way that corn helped impact our lives, and helped shape who we are as a people today."

In more recent times, the white corn hasn't been easy to get a hold of. A healthy, staple food has diminished in the Oneida's diet. This group is here to help bring it back.

After the corn is husked it gets braided. Then, it's dried for months before it gets shelled.

"Then, we get to cook it up and eat it," Webster said. "That's the best part."

It's probably the most important part too.

"We try to reincorporate it into foods that we are familiar with to be able to make sure that we're eating more of it," Webster said.

As the Oneida Nation eats more of this white corn, it becomes more common. A tradition returns. It's a worthy payoff to months of work.

"The people that are drawn to growing and harvesting and caring for our corn are really amazing people," Webster said. "We share a lot of laughs, and we share a lot of meals."