How Indian Corn Came Into the World
by Henry R. Schoolcraft (adapted)
An Ojibbeway Legend
Long, long ago, in a beautiful part of this country,
there lived an Indian with his wife and children.
He was poor and found it hard to provide food
enough for his family. But though needy he was
kind and contented, and always gave thanks to
the Great Spirit for everything that he received.
His eldest son, Wunzh, was likewise kind and
gentle and thankful of heart, and he longed
greatly to do something for his people.
The time came that Wunzh reached the age
when every Indian boy fasts so that he may see in
a vision the Spirit that is to be his guide through
life. Wunph's father built him a little lodge apart,
so that the boy might rest there undisturbed during
his days of fasting. Then Wunzh withdrew to
begin the solemn rite.
On the first day he walked alone in the woods
looking at the flowers and plants, and filling his
mind with the beautiful images of growing things
so that he might see them in his night-dreams. He
saw how the flowers and herbs and berries grew,
and he knew that some were good for food, and
that others healed wounds and cured sickness.
And his heart was filled with even a greater
longing to do something for his family and his
"Truly," thought he, "the
Great Spirit made
all things. To Him we owe our lives. But could
He not make it easier for us to get our food than
by hunting and catching fish? I must try to find
this out in my vision."
So Wunzh returned to his lodge and fasted
and slept. On the third day he became weak and
faint. Soon he saw in a vision a young brave
coming down from the sky and approaching the
lodge. He was clad in rich garments of green and
yellow colors. On his head was a tuft of nodding
green plumes, and all his motions were graceful
"I am sent to you, O Wunzh," said
stranger, "by that Great Spirit who made all
things in sky and earth. He has seen your fasting,
and knows how you wish to do good to your people,
and that you do not seek for strength in war
nor for the praise of warriors. I am sent to tell
you how you may do good to your kindred. Arise
and wrestle with me, for only by overcoming me
may you learn the secret."
Wunzh, though he was weak from fasting, felt
courage grow in his heart, and he arose and
wrestled with the stranger. But soon he became
weaker and exhausted, and the stranger, seeing
this, smiled gently on him and said: "My friend,
this is enough for once, I will come again
tomorrow." And he vanished as suddenly as he had
The next day the stranger came, and Wunzh felt
himself weaker than before; nevertheless he rose
and wrestled bravely. Then the stranger spoke a
second time. "My friend," he said, "have
Tomorrow will be your last trial." And he
disappeared from Wunzh's sight.
On the third day the stranger came as before,
and the struggle was renewed. And Wunzh,
though fainter in body, grew strong in mind and
will, and he determined to win or perish in the
attempt. He exerted all his powers, and, lo! in a
while, he prevailed and overcame the stranger.
"O Wunzh, my friend," said
one, "you have wrestled manfully. You have met
your trial well. To-morrow I shall come again and
you must wrestle with me for the last time. You
will prevail. Do you then strip off my garments,
throw me down, clean the earth of roots and
weeds, and bury me in that spot. When you have
done so, leave my body in the ground. Come
often to the place and see whether I have come to
life, but be careful not to let weeds or grass grow
on my grave. If you do all this well, you will soon
discover how to benefit your fellow creatures."
Having said this the stranger disappeared.
In the morning Wunzh's father came to him
with food. "My son," he said, "you have
long. It is seven days since you have tasted food,
and you must not sacrifice your life. The Master
of Life does not require that."
"My father," replied the boy, "wait
sun goes down to-morrow. For a certain reason I
wish to fast until that hour."
"Very well," said the old man, "I
until the time arrives when you feel inclined to
eat." And he went away.
The next day, at the usual hour, the sky
stranger came again. And, though Wunzh had
fasted seven days, he felt a new power arise within
him. He grasped the stranger with superhuman
strength, and threw him down. He took from him
his beautiful garments, and, finding him dead,
buried him in the softened earth, and did all else
as he had been directed.
He then returned to his father's lodge, and
partook sparingly of food. There he abode for some
time. But he never forgot the grave of his friend.
Daily he visited it, and pulled up the weeds and
grass, and kept the earth soft and moist. Very
soon, to his great wonder, he saw the tops of green
plumes coming through the ground.
Weeks passed by, the summer was drawing to a
close. One day Wunzh asked his father to follow
him. He led him to a distant meadow. There, in
the place where the stranger had been buried,
stood a tall and graceful plant, with bright-
colored, silken hair, and crowned by nodding
green plumes. Its stalk was covered with waving
leaves, and there grew from its sides clusters of
milk-filled ears of corn, golden and sweet, each
ear closely wrapped in its green husks.
"It is my friend!" shouted
the boy joyously;
"it is Mondawmin, the Indian Corn! We need
no longer depend on hunting, so long as this gift
is planted and cared for. The Great Spirit has
heard my voice and has sent us this food."
Then the whole family feasted on the ears of
corn and thanked the Great Spirit who gave it. So
Indian Corn came into the world.