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Indian Drama Plays for Teachers
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Home > Social Studies > Native Americans > Plays and Skits > The Life of the Corn- Harvest is Near Dance

Native American Play for TeachersNative American Plays, Skits and Dramas

The LIfe of the Corn - A drama in 5 dances

by Alice C. Fletcher

Harvest is Near Dance

INTRODUCTORY NOTE.—This dance, taken from the Corn Ritual, represents a visit to the field later in the season when the harvest time is near at hand. The keynote of this visit is in a line of one of the many stanzas of the original Ritual Song, "I go in readiness of mind." The mind is assured, prepared to find in the place where the "footprints" had been made, where the little kernels had broken the covering of earth to reach "the light of day," that these have now grown tall and strong under the summer sun and are "standing in the fulness of day." This assurance is justified, for the corn is found ready to pluck, and some of its ears are joyously carried to the people at home.

Properties.—The same costumes as those worn by the boys and girls in Dance II and III. The green scarfs used in Dance I will be needed in the latter part of this dance; these can be folded and carried in the pouches and pockets.

Directions.—The scene should be laid in the same place as the two preceding dances and the dancers should gather at the same spot whence they started to the "field" in Dance II and III.

The dancers, both boys and girls, should be discovered standing in an open group talking together in dumb show, evidently discussing the probabilities as to the ripening of the corn. They may have been saying: "Already the boys are shouting, The cattail is in bloom!" This was a sign that the time had come for the corn to be ripe. Some one whose mind was "in readiness" makes the suggestion (in pantomime) to go to the "field"; to this all agree, and the group breaks into lines as the boy and girl dancers sing the following song:

Native American Song

1
  In readiness of mind to the field we go,
  Where we footprints made, 
there stately jointed stalks grow. Loud rustle the long leaves,
bright the tassels wave o'er each row.
Refrain:  Ah hey hey hey they,
              Ah hey hey they,
            Ah hey hey hey they,
              Ah hey hey they,
                Ah hey they.
                                
Click for larger image - Native American Songs

The steps of the dancers must be in rhythm with the song and all movements should indicate a feeling of assurance. When the "field" is reached certain motions of the feet should suggest a memory of the "footprints." The "field" is now covered by rows of tall cornstalks; therefore, when the "field" is reached the dancers should move in parallel lines, as if they were passing between these rows. Some lines should cross at right angles, giving the effect of walking between high barriers, along pathways that intersect each other at right angles. When the dancers pass along these alleys, so to speak, movements should be made to indicate brushing against or pushing out of the way the "long rustling leaves" of the corn, and to point to the "waving tassels" far above their heads. This pantomime, with its rhythmic movements suggesting long lines of cornstalks, the brushing aside with the hands of the long leaves of the stalks, should make an effective picture.

2
  Strongly the ears shoot out, 
fill'd with golden grain, Up into the full light,
life flowing in each vein, Sacred the corn now stands
ready to give its strength full fain.
Refrain:  Ah hey hey hey they,
              Ah hey hey they,
            Ah hey hey hey they,
              Ah hey hey they,
                Ah hey they.
                                

The length of the original Ritual Song, together with the picturesque quality of the native language, permits the bringing out in full detail of this scene of the cornfield: the ears standing at angles from the stalk, and the husks full of kernels replete with life-giving power. Because of this power the corn has now "become sacred," filled with life from Wakon'da, thereby related to that great power and through it linked to the life of mankind. The idea of this unity throughout all nature, including man, is fundamental to Indian thought and belief. It is expressed in all his religious ceremonies and also in his vocations, both serious and playful. In the present instance it appeals to him through the planting, the growth, the maturing and the use of the corn, giving its life to man.

To convey the picture of the cornfield, and to suggest the thoughts that imbue the scene as expressed in the native rituals, will require some study, but the effort will be well worth while. These thoughts were vital upon this continent centuries before the land became our home. The maize in all its richness and beauty has become ours to enjoy, and while we accept this gift let us not fail to catch and to hold the lingering vibrations of its native teaching that aimed to lift the thoughts of the worker in the cornfield to the Great Giver of Life and Beauty.

In planning the pantomime for this stanza the dancers should not forget the rhythm of the song and to keep the lines as though they were walking between rows of tall cornstalks.

3
  Where'er we look wide fields 
wait harvest to meet; Ripe are the ears we pluck,
juicy the corn we eat; Filling our arms, we go homeward,
happy hearts there we meet.
Refrain:  Ah hey hey hey they,
              Ah hey hey they,
            Ah hey hey hey they,
              Ah hey hey they,
                Ah hey they.
                                

The action requisite for the interpretation of this stanza by pantomime is comparatively easy, as looking over the field ready for harvest, and plucking a few ears of the corn. Care should be taken not to appear to touch the row where the seven hills were made, for the product of these are to be used as the "first-fruit offering." During the singing of the first line of the third stanza a few of the dancers should slip behind some of the others and there take out their scarfs from the pouches or pockets, make each scarf into a loose bundle and carry it upon the folded arms as though it was filled with ears of corn. In this way, a few at a time, the dancers can secure their scarfs, and arrange them to look like bundles of corn to be taken homeward.

All the lines that have been moving as between rows of corn should now come together and form a long line and with dancing, rhythmic steps, and arms filled with corn, return to the starting place, and from there wind about the camp ground singing the refrain, which can be repeated ad lib. until they finally disperse and go to their tents.

 

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