ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How the Iroquois Tribes Grew Corn

Updated on December 21, 2017
cygnetbrown profile image

Cygnet Brown, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Argosy University. She is an author of twelve books and a long-time gardener.

Iroquois Nation Knew How to Grow Corn

Although the Plymouth Separatists took their first lesson in corn cultivation from Squanto, a member of the Patuxet tribe of the Wampanoag confederacy, no tribe knew more about corn cultivation than the Iroquois tribes.

Who were the Iroquois?

These Native Americans were leading corn farmers in the 1600's when the white man first came to North America to what would become the United States were the Iroquois. This trip would have the greatest influence on the English of any tribe they encountered. Although these tribes had originally been wandering tribes, by the time the white men came, they had made permanent roots in the lands between what are now Albany and Buffalo, New York.

These groups of Indians were said to have been united under the legendary Hiawatha, a hero similar to Beowulf who was believed to have lived in the early 1400s. Legends say he was first seen in a white canoe moving mystically down Lake Onondaga (near what is now Syracuse). Throughout the following decade he forged the councils of the five nations into a matriarchal, communal government where the women were the "state advisers". Although they never appeared in the council fire sacred circle, they told the delegates what to do.

The people called themselves "The Confederacy" the French called them "Iroquois", and the English called them the First Nations. The five nations were from west to east. The Senecas occupied the area around Buffalo and the Cayuga lived around the Finger Lakes. The Onondagas lived near the salt licks at Lake Onondaga and kept the counsel fires and national meeting place.the Oneidas had the best farms and lived in the gorges and corn land around Utica. The Mohawks were the furthest east were the professional warriors of Iroquois. They kept the hunting lands of the Adirondacks free of Huron and Canadian tribes. The tribes around the Mohawks said that the Mohawks were cannibals, but this may have just been a scare tactic which the Mohawks themselves originated.

Growing the Corn the Iroquois Way

The Iroquois women were responsible for the actual management of the gardens and orchards. The men helped at planting time and harvest but the growing and planning seasons were left to the women.

These women created the garden hoe with handles of wood and blades made of chipped stone or shell. They maintained the system of fertilized crop fields with humus, vegetable matter, clam shells and rotten fish. Every year they moved the corn's location to avoid wearing out the soil. They made vessels of bark lined with damp moss in order to test seeds for germination. They did not develop pure corn strains, but they did develop twelve different kinds of beans and three kinds of squash and pumpkins.They planted the corn, beans, and squash into patches called three sisters gardens.

The tallest Iroquois con was buck or flint corn. The shorted squaw corn was used for fine meal and early-ripened sweet corn was eaten green on the cob. Some corn strains could ripen in as little as 90 days.

The Iroquois knew it was time to plant when "the robins began to warble in the forest, a young brave stalked to the center of the village garden, pulled off his breech cloth and sat down. the women stood around him in the cirlce and kept him in sight for hours after he pulled off his cloth and walked away. If he didn't sneeze, the ground was warm enough to plant.

The Iroquois ground their corn to as their main food staple. They made cornbread and smoked meats to eat on their hunting trips. This is why early white men called it "journey cake". which the Dutch and English slurred into "johnnycake". for sweetening the corn they used maple syrup, maple sugar, and honey along with plums. They were the inventors of strawberry shortcake--cornbread with a syrup made of crushed wild strawberries and maple syrup.

How the Iroquois Grew Their Corn Part I

A Culture Built around Corn

The Iroquois were shrewd business people. Seed corn sold for more than food corn so the Iroquois women would puncture the eating corn with a bone awl before selling it to anyone.

This culture, whose livelihood centered around the production of corn, brought about a democratic system of cooperation, enterprise, equality, and united protection against invaders. This culture was an ecologist paradise free from muddy streams, eroded fields, torn forests, or economies controlled by city politics and education.

When the white men came to the forests of the Iroquois, was not the gold, silver, and spices they expected. Instead they found a land that the English farm serfs. villagers, religious refugees, and adventurers would soon inbred their skills at farming with the skills they learned from the Iroquois.

How the Iroquois Grew Their Corn Part II

© 2013 Cygnet Brown


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • cygnetbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Cygnet Brown 

      7 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      I agree with you, Randy Godwin. There is an Iroquois legend about the three sisters: corn, beans, and squash. It was said that they were inseparable sisters who only grow and thrive together. This tradition was widespread among Indian farming societies. It was not the Iroquois who developed the corn trade, but it was the corn trade that developed the Iroquois culture.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 

      7 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Interesting hub about the agrarian cultures the first Europeans observed in North America. Actually, it is thought maize, beans, and squash--known as the three sisters because it was often planted together--was first brought to North America by the Mississippian mound building cultures from a region in or near Mexico around 900 AD or earlier.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)