Mary Arquette del Clan del lobo, Mohawk, USA

“Corn is our sustenance. The three sisters (corn, beans and pumpkin) nourish both our spirits and bodies.”

I grew up listening to the creation myths. We have so many stories about corn. The corn would speak with our people and one time, when George Washington the “city’s destructor” burned down the corn, it was sad and wanted to leave us. We remember what he did to the women, the earth and the harvest. The corn was sad and asked to return to heaven and through prayer we asked her to stay with us. We asked her not to go and we promised to honour her so we wrote songs for her and so, she keeps supporting and caring for our children. One of the responsibilities that the Great Spirit gave to the corn was that she take care of all living things, not just us but also animals and insects. This is why these animals and insects also love the corn.

We promised the plants that if they stayed to help us, we would take care of them and so, we have to do that. There was a time when I kept dreaming that I was pregnant and that I was going to have a baby. There was no-one about and I started to panic. I could feel that the corn was reaching out to be and telling me that I would be fine. “We are here to help you, we are here to take care of you” the corn told me. I knew at that moment that  the corn was still reminding our people that if we continue to have this loving relationship with her and her sisters, we will be healthy and well, as will our children. That was my  experience. We have to have that relationship with those foods, and we shouldn’t only grow them but we should eat them and honour them in our ceremonies. If we do this we will be healthy and well.

Without our traditional foods, our spirits and bodies can’t be healthy. Our food is our medicine. We have to plant our corn, it’s the only way we can be well. We have to care for the bean and pumpkin plants, and all plants, and not only the corn. If we separate them, they will feel lonely.

There are lots of challenges in protecting the corn. Many of the biggest challenges come from ourselves because there are so many things that distract us, that distance us from our traditional teachings and our cultural practices. It’s difficult to focus when there are so many things that distance our young people from their culture. Teaching them English brings about a change in their way of thinking. When one thinks in Kanien’kéha, our language, one thinks in a feminine language,  one thinks about the construction of words, about how to join things together, one thinks of images. If our small children can’t think in this way, something is lost in our relationship. If we can’t speak our language between ourselves, there’s immediately a barrier there. When we sow plants we promise them in our language that we will not forget them, that we will take care of them, because it’s a duty and a responsibility that we’ve had since the beginning of time. We have to be able to do this in our words. We can’t do this in English. The power is in the word and the word is the power of thought.

[Note that this text can’t be accurately translated because the speaker is talking in Kanien’kéha, a feminine language]