By Rick Hill, Deyohahá:ge:, Six Nations Polytechnic
For the next few weeks, Rick Hill of Deyohahá:ge: gives us an overview of the origin of our seeds. In Part Three, we hear about The Path and Maple Sap. If you missed Parts One and Two, they are available on our website www.tworowtimes.com.
After the Sapling made the first humans from clay, he put in them a piece of his good mind, along with some of his flesh and blood. He then breathed into the clay figures three times and they came alive.
He instructed them to send two young people who have just reached the age of puberty to collect the three plants and place them in a mound beside an open grave at the end of that path. He asked them to observe carefully, and report back to him what they saw. They headed down the path, which mysteriously appeared to be the footprints of generations of people who walked that path before them. Along the way they saw all that Sapling created. I think it was likely that they saw all of the things for which we still give thanks for whenever we gather.
When they reached the end of the path, they saw a large hole in the ground, with dirt heaped in a mound next to it. The woman took the corn, then the bean plant, and placed them carefully in the dirt of the mound. The man then took the squash plant and placed them around the others.
At that point, they were told they would understand the meaning of the grave: It lies there for everyone, but they will not know when or where they will die. When the Creator asked them what they thought it meant, the first humans said that it meant that we journey on the earthly path for only so long, then our bodies will become part of the Mother Earth, in order to help the foods that sustain us grow.
The Sapling then explained that they would have to labor in order to grow food – clearing fields, heaping up the mounds, planting, cultivating and harvesting. But if both man and women helped one another, then they would enjoy the great bounty that the earth provides.
Sapling then instructed them in how to plant and care for the crops. He also taught them the ceremonies needed to acknowledge and express gratitude for these great gifts of Creation. Thus our ancestors developed a highly sophisticated society in which the cultivation of corn by women was featured. Recent science has shown that Seneca women in the 17th century were able to produce more nutrition per acre by the use of mound agriculture than European farms using an ox and plow.
What produced such bounty was not just hard labor, but a loving relationship between women, corn seed and the forces of the Creation that effect crop growth. There was also a spiritual connection that allowed this to work. Our ancestors literally believed that the corn, beans and squash seeds were seeds of life. They also believed that the quality of their thoughts, words and actions could affect the quality of the harvest. Therefore they conducted themselves in a sacred manner, as best they could.
He instructed them to send two young people who have just reached the age of puberty to collect the three plants and place them in a mound beside an open grave at the end of that path. The woman was to first take the corn, then the bean plant, and place them carefully in the dirt. The man would then take the squash plant and place them around the others. At that point, they were told they would understand the meaning of the grave. It lies there for everyone, but they will not know when or where they will die. The Creator told the Original People not to waste the food plants, and to share them with each other.
The Akwesasne Mohawks have a story about maple sap that is a good teaching about our relationship to food. They say that when the world was new and humans began to populate it, syrup just dripped from the trees. All you had to do was lie down and open your mouth and syrup would fall into it.
The people got lazy and spent all their time drinking in the syrup. They forgot their duties, forgot to plant, forgot to hunt and forgot to give thanks. This upset the Creator so he changed the situation. He made it so only sap would flow, and it would require much labor to turn it into syrup. Thus, each spring we take to the woods to tap the maple trees, and then hours are spent hauling sap, making a fire and boiling the sap down to syrup.
So what is the teaching of this story? We are meant to exist in a totality, with each part interdependent upon each other. Shopping for wholesome food is not the real answer. Planting, cultivating, hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering is part of what is called Ögwë’ö:we:ka:’ – the way of life of the original people. The consciousness that results from being connected to responsibilities to foods shaped our outlook of the world. When we are disconnected to the processes that were defined by the Creator and Creation, we become removed from the intended whole health plan that was set out for us.
Check the Healthy Roots section of the Two Row Times next week when we continue with Part 4 of the Our Changing Relationship to Foods series.