The Story Of The Indian Corn
Source: Thirty Indian Legends
Some years ago the Ottawa Indians inhabited the Manatoline Islands.
Their enemies were the Iroquois Indians, who lived on the lake shore
near the islands. One night they came and attacked the Ottawas. The
two tribes fought for a long time, but at last the Iroquois won, and
the Ottawas were driven away from their islands. They wandered off
towards the Mississippi River, where they settled near a small lake,
many miles away from their home.
The Manatoline Islands were now uninhabited, except by an Indian
magician, whose name was Masswaweinini. He remained behind to act as
sentry for his tribe. He guarded the beautiful islands and kept a
close watch on their enemy, the Iroquois. Two young boys stayed with
him to paddle his canoe. In the daytime they used to paddle close to
the shore, so that the Iroquois could not see them, and at night they
slept in the deep woods.
One morning Masswaweinini rose early and left the two boys asleep. He
walked a long distance through the woods, hunting for game. At last he
found himself on the edge of a wide prairie. He began to walk across
it, when a man suddenly appeared in front of him. He was very tiny and
had some red feathers in his hair. "Good-morning, Masswaweinini," he
said. "You are a very strong man, are you not?"
"Yes," replied the magician. "I am as strong as any man, but no
The tiny man then pulled out his tobacco-pouch and pipe.
"Come and smoke with me," he said, "and then we must have a wrestling
match. If you can throw me, you must say, 'I have thrown Wagemena.'"
So they smoked together, but when the little man was ready to wrestle,
the magician did not like to do it, for he was afraid he might hurt the
tiny fellow. But the other insisted, and so they began to wrestle.
The magician soon found that the little man was very strong and quick,
and he felt himself growing weaker every moment. But at last he
succeeded in tripping the man with the red feathers, and he fell. Then
the magician said, "I have thrown you, Wagemena." At once the little
man vanished, and in his place lay an ear of corn, with a red tassel
where the feathers had been. As he stood staring at it, the corn
spoke. "Pick me up," it said, "and pull off my outer covering. Then
take off my kernels and scatter them over the ground. Break my cob
into three parts and throw them near the trees. Depart, but come back
after one moon, and see what has happened."
The magician did exactly as the corn had told him, and went away. At
the end of the time he came back. To his surprise, he found green
blades of corn coming through the ground where the kernels had been
scattered. And near the trees pumpkin-vines were growing where the
cobs of the corn had been thrown.
He had not told the young boys of his adventure with the tiny man, so
he did not tell them anything of the growing corn. All the rest of
that summer he busied himself in closely watching the Iroquois, who
were still prowling near the islands. Very often he killed a deer, and
the boys would cook the meat over their camp-fire. One day, when the
summer was nearly over, he paddled his canoe around the island till he
came near the wrestling ground. He stepped ashore, and left the two
boys to watch the canoe, while he walked to the field. To his great
astonishment, he found the corn in full ear, and the pumpkins of an
immense size. He pulled some ripened ears of corn and gathered some
pumpkins. Then a voice spoke to him from the corn. "You have
conquered me, Masswaweinini," it said. "If you had not done so, you
would have been killed yourself. But your strength made you win the
victory, and now you shall always have my body for food. It will be
nourishment for you and your tribe."
Thus the Ottawa Indians were given the gift of the maize; and to this
day their descendants are noted for the care that they take of their
immense fields of corn.
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