IntroductionThe Pueblo people in the American Southwest have cultivated corn for many hundreds of years. The Puebloans, like the Hopi, dry farm and rely upon rainfall for their crop, as well as use irrigation methods as evidenced at Chaco Canyon. The Zuni grew corn in unique “waffle gardens” with crisscrossed furrows to catch the water.
For the Pueblos, corn is not only a basic food but also the basis of all life and is featured in many creation stories. The Apache, Navajo and other tribes also grew corn.
Storytellers, writers and artists have represented corn in stories, documents, and artwork such as photographs and paintings.
View images of corn.
Read one of the selections.
Corn is a New World crop from the Americas that the Europeans did not grow until Native Americans introduced corn to them. The first Spaniards to reach New Mexico could not have survived without supplies of corn they received or demanded from the Pueblos. Corn became a staple for the new European settlers to the region who took it to Europe for widespread cultivation.
Background InformationCorn, in the form of Corn Mother or Corn Maiden, is featured in many Native American stories. These stories illustrate the cultural significance of corn and its cultivation in Native American life throughout the American Southwest. Corn may first have been cultivated in Mexico. “How the World Began” from When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away in Part 4, Related Material, can be read aloud as an enriching and enjoyable class/group activity.
InstructionTime: One to three class periods
ObjectivesTo examine the characteristics of an indigenous people that had an effect on New Mexico’s development.
To describe the characteristics of other indigenous peoples that had an affect upon New Mexico’s development (e.g., pueblo farmers, great plains horse culture, nomadic bands, noting their development of tools, adaptation to environments, social structure, domestication of plants).
To examine how New Mexicans have adapted to their physical environments through adaptation to an arid environment and cultivation techniques.
To examine an aspect of Pueblo culture and analyze information to use to answer critical questions.
StandardsNM Public Education Department, SS, grade 7, A2, A5, D1, D2
Title: Hopi Men Husking and Roasting Corn, ca. 1911
Source(s): Hopi, Arizona
Author(s): H. F. Robinson (Photographer)
Description: Hopi men husking and roasting corn.
Collection(s): Palace of the Governors
Catalog Number: DCA 36894
Credits: H. F. Robinson (photographer), Courtesy Palace of the Governors (MNM/DCA) #36894
Title: The Creation of Man
Source(s): Myths and Tales of the Jicarilla Apache Indians
Author(s): Traditional; Morris Opler (Editor)
Description: How Hactcin created human beings.
Publisher: American Folklore Society
Publication Date: 1938
Credits: Note: The School for Advanced Research Press has done its best to identify, locate, and request permission from copyright holders. We respectfully ask users to contact us if they have information about the identity or address of copyright holders whom we were unable to reach. We will be happy to take the appropriate steps to obtain permission.
Title: The Making of Man
Source(s): The Mythic World of the Zuni
Author(s): Barton Wright (Artist); Frank Hamilton Cushing (Author)
Publisher: University of New Mexico Press
Publication Date: 1992
Source(s): The Zuni Indians and Their Uses of Plants
Author(s): Matilda Coxe Stevenson (Author)
Description: Anthropologist Matilda Stevenson describes the many ways in which Zuni people use corn.
Publication Date: 1933
Credits: Matilda Coxe Stevenson, The Zuni Indians and Their Uses of Plants, Dover Publications, Inc.
Author(s): Ignacio Moquino [Waka Yeni Dewa] (Artist)
Description: Painting by Ignacio Moquino [Waka Yeni Dewa], Zia.
Collection(s): Indian Arts Research Center, School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe
Catalog Number: School for Advanced Research Catalogue No. SAR1989-28-80
Title: The Origin of Corn
Title: Hopi Woman Shelling Corn
Author(s): Unidentified (Photographer)
Description: A Hopi woman shelling corn.
Catalog Number: DCA 2571
Credits: Unidentified Photographer, Courtesy Palace of the Governors (MNM/DCA) #2571
Title: Turkey Makes the Corn and Coyote Plants It
Source(s): American Indian Myths and Legends
Author(s): Traditional; Richard Erdoes (Editor); Alfonso Ortiz (Editor)
Description: Turkey teaches people how to grow corn, but Coyote doesn't learn the lesson.
Publication Date: 1984
Catalog Number: pp. 252-254
Title: White Mountain Apaches, ca. 1885
Author(s): Ben Wittick (Photographer)
Catalog Number: DCA 16330
Credits: Ben Wittick (photographer), Courtesy Palace of the Governors (MNM/DCA) #16330
Title: How the World Began
Source(s): When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away
Author(s): Ramon A. Gutíerrez (Author)
Description: A noted scholar tells the story of how the world began according to the people of Acoma.
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Publication Date: 1991
Catalog Number: pp. 3-7
Credits: When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away by Ramon Gutíerrez. Copyright (c)1991 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Jr. University. With the permission of Stanford University Press, www.sup.org.
Title: Navajo Rug
Author(s): Clara Nez (Artist)
Description: Rug/sand painting.
Catalog Number: School for Advanced Research Catalogue No. SAR1983-14-5
Title: Seed Jar
Author(s): Marie Chino (Artist); Vera Chino (Artist)
Description: Pottery. Acoma.
Catalog Number: School for Advanced Research Catalogue No. SAR1994-4-557
Title: Approach to Acoma
Description: Approach to the mesa where Acoma Pueblo is located.
Collection(s): Kenneth M. Chapman Collection; at the School for Advanced Research Archive
Catalog Number: Box 59, AC02.836 F2-9
Title: Letter from Coronado to Mendoza
Source(s): The Journey of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, 1540-1542
Author(s): Francisco Vásquez de Coronado (Author); George Hammond (Editor); Agapito Rey (Editor)
Description: Francisco Vásquez de Coronado wrote this report to Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza describing his expedition into New Mexico in 1540.
Publication Date: 1940
Credits: Excerpt courtesy University of New Mexico Press.