Manataka™ American Indian Council
GRANDMOTHERL. COTA NUPAH MAKAH SPEAKS
Green Corn Dance
by Nupah Makah L. Cota
"Wait my little ones the Earth is not warm enough and the cold comes often at night. You need time to grow and to be stronger to survive out there".
They nod, and seem to understand at least the gentle touch of the
hand and tone of my voice.
We all dress in our best ribbon skirts and blouses. The young men
look so handsome in their dance regalia. I take out my old
blue ribbon dress from many years of corn planting and lay it on
the bed to help remove the wrinkles. The moccasins will have to do
they like me have seen better days.
It is of no matter at my age I leave the fancy dresses to those much
younger. This dress has seen many plantings and will perhaps see
At last on the horizon I see the first of the old beat up pickups
rolling down over the hill. Rattle and clanging all the way.
They are loaded down with people, tents and provisions for the
One old truck holds the Clan Mother for the Corn dance she is
sitting on her rocker in the back of the pickup bed.
Wrapped in her blankets she sits there like some ancient Queen on
her throne. All around her are the smaller children piled in every
which way. The trucks and old cars land in the yard with a
sputtering of motors and squeal brakes. The contents seem to spill
out all over the place as the make shift tent village is
Like magic the place come alive with laughter and the sounds of
children running and playing.
hear my uncles laugh over this all he is always laughing for no
apparent reason at all.
It was the war that made him this way, he was held prisoner for
many months by the Germans.
He once said, "you have a choice, you can laugh or cry, I chose to
Grandmother is taken out of the pickup truck by the strong young
men. She is still setting in her rocking chair as they place her in
the shade of an old tree.
Many more trucks and old rusted out cars come to fill in the spaces.
Soon the camp is in order and we start the drum and the singing.
Woven bags of corn are brought out for the planting and shell hoes
are used to simulate the old time ways.
The ground is made ready and the people stand in a circle around the
fire to await the lighting.
Soon the oldest Elder starts his prayers with the words: "These are
the words that come before all else." Each in turn of the Green
Corn Clan repeat a part of this prayer of the "Words that come
before all else".
down the Elder strikes the flint to the stone and soon the flame is
lit. He passes a lighted branch to the Clan Mother and she tosses
it into the fire saying, "and now there is fire." The Clan
Grandmother opens her small bag of herbs and take out a hand full of
corn meal this she also tosses into the fire saying, "and now there
is food for the people."
One man offers water to the fire another offers tobacco soon the
prayers are done and we are free to leave the sacred fire. Every
morning we will gather at this fire and make our morning prayers. We
will keep this fire alive for the entire three days of the ceremony.
This fire will be fed for the three days of planting it will not go
out in all of these days. When the ceremony is over on the last
day, the ashes taken home by each person who attended the ceremony.
The drum is started and the words said, "this is the sacred heart
beat of our people Creator hear us."
"See the faces of the human beings and know we are here still on
this Earth Mother. We offer you corn and water, we offer you fire
and sacred herbs." May you make the Earth ready for our planting,
may you make her fertile to produce the food for our children."
When this is all said and it can take over two hours the people are
free to go and make camp.
We call in the young strong men to carry out the big kettles of corn
soup and fry bread for the first feast.
It is all taken to the Sacred Fire where it will remain warm until
the sun has left the sky.
When all is dark the soup and fry bread will be served to the
Night darkens still deeper as the people gather around the fire for
company and warmth.
The drum never stops its heart beat but sometimes can brake into
song and all will sing along.
The old songs are taken out of the memory and shared with the new
generation who sit at the fire.
Stories are told and funny things shared until sleepy heads nod and
we all find our blankets for the night.
lay for a long time looking out at the stars from my tent flap. The
clear sky is filled with them tonight so close you can almost touch
Morning comes and we hear the morning song sung by our Elder Women
they come around with the gourd rattles and hand drums to each tent.
We all crawl out of the tents and go to the fire for morning
Today we plant the first corn so we must be very clear in our hearts
and minds for this to be a good crop.
Small children are running in between the people and they are picked
up and held by Uncles and Aunts. There are never angry words spoken
to the children they are just there as apart of the family. No one
says to them go to your Mother or Father, because we are all one
Hungry babies are fed, small children are changed and fed, loving
arms cuddle and noses are wiped.
stand back behind the Grandmother and watch as the day unfolds. Soon
they come to bring Grandmother to the field. Back she goes into the
old truck bed and taken out to the place where we are to plant the
Again the prayers of the Human Beings are spoken, like they have
been for thousands of years.
Grandmother asks for the young men to open the ground and place that
piece of earth in her hand. They take a small patch of sod and grass
into her hands. Grandmother then speaks to the Earth in her own
language and then returns it to the men to place back into the hole
it came from.
She has just ask the Earth's permission to open her and plant the
Not the planting starts we all take a part of this some making the
holes some placing in the corn in a sacred way. We add tobacco to
the holes then three piece of corn and pat the Earth down over them.
Later on the fish heads will come when the time is right. These will
help the corn to grow strong and produce many ears.
During this time we will all come to celebrate the summer dance and
games or "The Gathering of the Clans".
There will be many times we come together for the corn. The last one
is the harvest and that is again a three day and night gathering. In
this time we will gather the corn and dance and celebrate the
harvest with many dishes of meat from the hunt and fish from the
This will be celebrated with many corn dishes too. One of my
favorite dishes is the Indian Corn Pudding.
All to soon the old cars and trucks are loaded and the people leave
just as they came rattling and clanging up the hill out of the
Now we are keeping watch over the corn and we must be careful to
make sure it is safe.
We make a scare crow to place in the center of the field and then
several more flashy items on posts to keep the crows out of the
patch as the corn starts to mature.
The dogs are let lose now at night so that they can patrol the corn
fields and scare away the raccoons.
Summer comes and we are very busy with the gardens and the gathering
of wild berries and other herbs for the winter time.
One morning I hear the sound of the trucks before I can see them and
know it is now time to gather the corn. This will be the first
gathering and eating of the new crop.
Later on in the Fall we will come one last time to gather the corn
for shucking and drying. This is my favorite time of all gatherings.
We will shuck the green corn and then braid it into long ropes for
drying in the sheds. By November the corn will be divided among the
clan and all will have food for the winter months.
Some day before my hand and eyes get too tired I will make a quilt
of this ceremony like my Grandmother once used. It told the story of
the corn from the first corn brought to this Earth by Corn Woman too
the planting, and harvest ceremony.
Many Blessings Nupah Makah
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