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Our Precious Corn: Yukwanenste

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by Rebecca M. Webster
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Exploring the history and enduring importance of corn to the Oneida people, Rebecca M. Webster traces its role in everything from oral traditions of creation to current efforts to preserve and celebrate distinctive varieties of the grain.

An Oneida woman, a farmer, and a member of the faculty at the University of Minnesota, Webster, who is also known by the name Kanyʌʔtake·lu, incorporates both written histories from previous centuries as well as interviews with other Oneida to demonstrate the changing but indelible part corn has played in her people’s culture.

She frequently uses words from the Haudenosaunee language throughout the book, including as chapter headings. The translations of those titles point out the poignancy of recent history for the Oneida, as well as their resilience. Some examples are

  • Kanehelatúksla: To Extend Greetings and Thankfulness
  • Wayukhinuklhaʔte Okhale Wayukkhinató-li: They Dismissed Our Thinking and They Disrupted Our Towns
  • Ohutsyo-kú Wahaitha-wíhte: They Took It to Under the Earth
  • Ona Waekwatahtaskenhá: Now We Have the Means to Help Ourselves

The book is interesting both as an account of the specifics of a single culture, as well as for its insights into how issues of tradition and identity can have increasing relevance in contemporary efforts to integrate agriculture into a wider range of community practices.


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