Excerpts from an Ojibwa Legend told to Henry R. Schoolcraft
Long, long ago, in a beautiful part of this country, there lived an Indian with his wife and children.
He was poor and found it hard to provide food enough for his family. But though needy, he was kind and contented and always gave thanks to the Great Spirit for everything that he received.
His eldest son, Wunzh, was likewise kind and gentle and thankful of heart, and he longed greatly to do something for his people.
The time came that Wunzh reached the age when every Indian boy fasts so that he may see in a vision the Spirit that is to be his guide through life.
On his first day of fasting he walked alone in the woods looking at how the flowers and herbs and berries grew. He knew that some were good for food and that others healed wounds and cured sickness. And his heart was filled with even a greater longing to do something for his family and his tribe.
“Truly,” thought he, “the Great Spirit made all things. To Him we owe our lives. But could He not make it easier for us to get our food than by hunting and catching fish? I must try to find this out in my vision.”
On the third day of is fast he saw in a vision a young brave coming down from the sky. He was clad in rich garments of green and yellow colors. On his head was a tuft of nodding green plumes, and all his motions were graceful and swaying.
“I am sent to you, O Wunzh,”said the sky-stranger, “by that Great Spirit who made all things in sky and earth. He has seen your fasting, and knows how you wish to do good to your people, and that you do not seek for strength in war nor for the praise of warriors. I am sent to tell you how you may do good to your kindred. Arise and wrestle with me, for only by overcoming me may you learn the secret.”
Wunzh, though he was weak from fasting, felt courage grow in his heart. For three days in a row as Wunzh became weaker and weaker he wrestled with the stranger. Finally on the third day, Wunzh, though fainter in body, grew strong in mind and will, and he determined to win or perish in the attempt. He exerted all his powers, and, lo! in a while, he prevailed and overcame the stranger.
“O Wunzh, my friend,” said the conquered one, “you have wrestled manfully. You have met your trial well. When I come a last time, tomorrow, you must wrestle with me for the last time. Do you then strip off my garments, throw me down, clean the earth of roots and weeds, and bury me in that spot. When you have done so, leave my body in the ground. Come often to the place and see whether I have come to life, but be careful not to let weeds or grass grow on my grave. If you do all this well, you will soon discover how to benefit your fellow creatures.”
Wunzh never forgot the grave of his friend. Daily he visited it, and pulled up the weeds and grass, and kept the earth soft and moist. Very soon, to his great wonder, he saw the tops of green plumes coming through the ground.
Weeks passed by, the summer was drawing to a close. One day Wunzh asked his father to follow him. He led him to a distant meadow. There, in the place where the stranger had been buried, stood a tall and graceful plant, with bright-colored, silken hair, and crowned by nodding green plumes. Its stalk was covered with waving leaves, and there grew from its sides clusters of milk-filled ears of corn, golden and sweet, each ear closely wrapped in its green husks.
“It is my friend!” shouted the boy joyously. “It is Mondawmin, the Indian Corn! We need no longer depend on hunting, so long as this gift is planted and cared for. The Great Spirit has heard my voice and has sent us this food.”
Then the whole family feasted on the ears of corn and thanked the Great Spirit who gave it. So Indian Corn came into the world.