Corn, one of the Three Sisters, was provided by the Creator. Dried and stored, roasted or ground into flour, corn is an important part of Haudenosaunee everyday and ceremonial life. But its value went beyond what was edible.
What we would discard in the compost or garbage today once provided art material for the resourceful Haudenosaunee. Long ago, the husk (or outside covering) of corn was braided , sewn, and wrapped to create everything from masks to moccasin covers, containers to toys.
Women planted, cultivated and prepared the corn. After the harvest the dry husks were soaked in water to make them flexible enough to be transformed into things the family needed. Special white corn was favored because it had long, bendable husks.
Today a small number of Haudenosaunee still enjoy working with cornhusk. Mothers and grandmothers teach those who want to learn. The most popular items to make are dolls. Originally these were created as toys and never given faces to remind the children not to think better of themselves than other children. Today Haudenosaunee children play with store bought dolls and computers instead of old style dolls, but museums and doll collectors purchase them. Recently the dollmakers invented a new style doll that can be posed like an action figure. Now they make lacrosse players, powwow dancers, soldiers, singers and even wedding cake toppers! But even these are never given faces!
Cornhusk Moccasins by Rita Chrisjohn Benson, Oneida
and Cornhusk Salt Bottle, maker unknown
Lacrosse Player by Denise Whitepigeon, Seneca