Arikara - An Address to Mother Corn
The Arikaras came from the south, many years ago, to the Missouri River in what is now North Dakota and the Fort Berthold Reservation in South Dakota, where they live today. With them, they brought not only reliance on corn as their most important agricultural crop, but also their appreciation of it as a divine gift. The Great Spirit Above gave them corn and they show their gratitude every year in their ceremonies.
In these religious ceremonies, corn was honored and referred to in the endearing and also the highly respectful title of "Mother Corn." At a certain time in the ritual, one of the leaders of the tribe made an address to Mother Corn in the following words, or in words with similar effect.
"In ancient time the Great Spirit Above sent Mother Corn to our people to be their friend and helper, to give them support and health and strength. She has walked with our people on the long and difficult path that they have traveled from the faraway past, and now she marches with us toward the future.
"In the dim, distant past days. Mother Corn gave food to our ancestors. As she gave it to them she now gives it to us. And as she was faithful and bountiful to our forefathers and to us, so will she be faithful and bountiful to our children. Now and in all time to come, she will give to us the blessings for which we have prayed.
"Mother Corn leads us as she led our fathers and our mothers down through the ages. The path of Mother Corn lies ahead, and we walk with her, day by day. We go forward with hope and confidence in the future just as our ancestor did during all the past ages. When the lonely prairie stretched wide and fearful before us, we were doubtful and afraid But Mother Corn strengthened and encouraged us.
"Now Mother Corn's return makes our hearts glad. Give thanks! Give thanks to Mother Corn! She brings us a blessing. She brings us peace and plenty. She comes from the Great Spirit Above, who has brought us good things."
Throughout the address and the elaborate ceremony that preceded and followed it, a stalk of corn stood before the altar, representing the spirit of Mother Corn.
About sunset, the staff of corn was dressed like a woman and carried at the head of a religious procession to the brink of the nearby river White people call it the Missouri River; the Arikaras always called it the Mysterious Waters. With reverence, they placed the stalk in the water so that it might float along as a symbol of their affection for Mother Corn.
Melvin Gllmore, Prairie Smoke. Bismarck, N. Dak: Bismarck Tribune Co., 1922, pages 172-174 and is now in the public domain.