First People and the First Corn


Long ago, Klos-kur-beh, the Great Teacher, lived in the land where no people lived. One day at noon, a young man came to him and called him "Mother's brother."

Standing before Klos-kur-beh, he said, "I was born of the foam of the waters. The wind blew, and the waves quickened into foam. The sun shone on the foam and warmed it, and the warmth made life, and the life was I. See--I am young and swift, and I have come to abide with you and to help in all that you do."

Again on a day at noon, a maiden came, stood before the two, and called them "my children." "My children, I have come to abide with you and have brought with me love. I will give it to you, and if you will love me and will grant my wish, all the world will love me, even the very beasts. Strength is mine, and I give it to whosoever may get me. Comfort also is mine, for though I am young, my strength shall be felt over all the earth. I was born of the beautiful plant of the earth. For the dew fell on the leaf, and the sun warmed the dew, and the warmth was life, and that life is I."

Then Klos-kur-beh lifted up his hands toward the sun and praised the Great Spirit. Afterward, the young man and the maiden became man and wife, and she became the first mother. Klos-kur-beh taught their children and did great works for them. When his works were finished, he went away to live in the Northland until it should be time for him to come again.

The people increased until they were numerous. When a famine came among them, the first mother grew more and more sorrowful. Every day at noon she left her husband's lodge and stayed away from him until the shadows were long. Her husband, who dearly loved her, was sad because of her sorrow. One day he followed her trail as far as the ford of the river, and there he waited for her to return.

When she came, she sang as she began to ford the river, and as long as her feet were in the water she seemed glad. The man saw something that trailed behind her right foot, like a long green blade. When she came out of the water, she stooped and cast off the blade. Then she appeared sorrowful.

The husband followed her home as the sun was setting, and he bade her come out and look at the beautiful sun. While they stood side by side, there came seven little children. They stood in front of the couple, looked into the woman's face, and spoke: "We are hungry, and the night will soon be here. Where is the food?"

Tears ran down the woman's face as she said, "Be quiet, little ones. In seven moons you shall be filled and shall hunger no more."

Her husband reached out, wiped away her tears, and asked, "My wife, what can I do to make you happy?"

"Nothing else," she said. "Nothing else will make me happy."

Then the husband went away to the Northland to ask Klos-kur-beh for counsel. With the rising of the seventh sun, he returned and said, "O wife, Klos-kur-beh has told me to do what you asked."

The woman was pleased and said, "When you have slain me, let two men take hold of my hair and draw my body all the way around a field. When they have come to the middle of it, let them bury my bones. Then they must come away. When seven months have passed, let them go again to the field and gather all that they find. Tell them to eat it. It is my flesh. You must save a part of it to put in the ground again. My bones you cannot eat, but you may burn them. The smoke will bring peace to you and your children."

The next day, when the sun was rising, the man slew his wife. Following her orders, two men drew her body over an open field until her flesh was worn away. In the middle of the field, they buried her bones.

When seven moons had passed by and the husband came again to that place, he saw it all filled with beautiful tall plants. He tasted the fruit of the plant and found it sweet. He called it Skar-mu- nal--"corn." And on the place where his wife's bones were buried, he saw a plant with broad leaves, bitter to the taste. He called it Utar-mur-wa-yeh-- "tobacco."

Then the people were glad in their hearts, and they came to the harvest. But when the fruits were all gathered, the man did not know how to divide them. So he sent to the great teacher, Klos- kur-beh, for counsel. When Klos-kur-beh came and saw the great harvest, he said, "Now have the first words of the first mother come to pass, for she said she was born of the leaf of the beautiful plant. She said also that her power should be felt over the whole world and that all men should love her.

"And now that she has gone into this substance, take care that the second seed of the first mother be always with you, for it is her flesh. Her bones also have been given for your good. Burn them, and the smoke will bring freshness to the mind. And since these things came from the goodness of a woman's heart, see that you hold her always in memory. Remember her when you eat. Remember her when the smoke of her bones rises before you. And because you are all brothers, divide among you her flesh and her bones. Let all share alike, for so will the love of the first mother have been fulfilled."


Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature
Compiled by: Glenn Welker




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