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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 19, 2002 - Issue 72


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Oneidas Pay Respect by Husking White Corn

by Andy Behrendt - Green Bay Press-Gazette
White Corn kernelsONEIDA, WI — There's plenty of modern machinery that might ease the burdens of harvesting corn, but to the Oneida Tribe, respect for the earth and tradition comes before convenience.

With that in mind, the tribe is welcoming area residents to help snap, husk and braid-dry six acres of corn on its Tsyunhehkwa center land this week. The center, whose name means "life sustenance," opened its annual husking bee last Saturday.

"It's really about re-establishing relationships — with community, with each other and with the corn and our sustainers," said Jill Martus-Ninham, Tsyunhehkwa's agricultural food supervisor.

Those sustainers, she said, are corn, beans and squash — the "three sisters" in tribal folklore.

As in harvests of the past eight years, the community helps harvest the land's white corn, which in turn provides for the community, Martus-Ninham said. The corn is used in traditional corn soups and breads that are sold at the center's shop and donated to tribal community events, and some is used as seed for next year's crop.

This year's community harvest is a bit different, though. It's the first time the event has lasted for a week — complete with two days of educational workshops.

For Brooke Lancelle and Katie Sturzl, Saturday morning's kickoff was educational in itself.

The two University of Wisconsin-Green Bay sophomores were among a handful of community members who showed up in the opening hours to tear corn off stalks and collect cobs. They admitted they came to get extra-credit points for their American Indian Studies course.

Although they were new to the job of husking, they recognized the traditional thanksgiving prayer that started the week and, thanks to their class, were wise to bring gloves.

"We got warned," Sturzl said.

For Mindimoye, who was visiting the Oneida Tribe's local community from Canastota, N.Y., harvesting corn was nothing new. Now age 68, she learned the skills growing up.

"I feel like the corn works hard to grow and to produce food for us, and then I thought, ‘Hey, I've got to do something — I've got to do my part,' " she said. "The corn has really been with us for so many generations. It kept George Washington from starvation, even."

Tsyunhehkwa Center
Playing a pivotal role in the re-introduction of high quality, organically grown foods that will ensure a healthier and more fulfilling life for the Oneida People of the Standing Stone and being facilitators of positive dietary and nutritional change throughout our community and Turtle Island.
Oneida, WI MAP
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