North-South-East-West: American Indians and the Natural World

Corn: We are Rooted in Our Corn Fields

Germination Katsina The Hopi people farm successfully in an arid and demanding environment. They have detailed knowledge of their environment and employ specialized agricultural methods to maximize their chances for success. Farmers select the most favorable field sites on the valley floors, generally utilizing naturally flooded areas such as the mouths of large washes to capture the runoff from heavy thunderstorms. They plant multiple seeds in each hole, resulting in clumps of plants that are wind resistant and widely spaced to prevent soil nutrient depletion. Seeds are planted twelve inches deep to take advantage of the moisture trapped in the sandy subsoil.

The traditional planting dates are determined by the Sunwatcher, who observes the varying positions of the rising sun on the horizon. With the worrisome potential for both late spring and early fall frosts, correct timing for planting is vital. Hopi farmers increase their chances for success by making several plantings at different locations, elevations, and times.

The Hopi place high value on traditional corn horticulture techniques and continue to exert great effort in the application of these centuries-old practices, using native seeds and organic farming methods. Farming has more than economic significance. Working the corn is an act of faith.

Corn has sustained the people for centuries and continues to be an essential element in every ceremony. Although people may supplement their supply with corn purchased from the supermarket, it is the presence of corn cultivated by the Hopi that is of primary importance.


Image: Germination Katsina Ahöla Tihu
Hopi, ca. 1904
Ahöla, a winter solstice katsina, arrives to open the kivas for the other katsinas' visitations. He blesses all the houses in the village and the seeds that each household will plant in the upcoming agricultural season.

Cottonwood (Populus sp.), commercial cotton, Golden Eagle wing covert feathers (Aquila chrysaetos), Black-billed Magpie feathers (Pica pica), Wild Turkey feathers (Meleagris gallopavo) unidentified feathers, cottontail? fur (Sylvilagus sp.), horsehair (Equus caballus), commercial wool, paint, dye; W 40.0 x H 59.7 cm; 3165-109

corn
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