Corn has been a Shawnee staple for hundreds of years. There is an old saying: Ne’wethin’ne pay tame k’sake hiine yes’thekey We eat corn because that is the way it was fixed (by God).
The Shawnee commonly cultivate three types of corn - dent corn, flint corn, and sweet corn. They eat some fresh corn but preserve most of the crop for later use.
Shawnee women preserved and prepared different types of corn in different ways. For example, they often used a white flint corn to make hominy, but choose a soft, white kernel (pekal’ayna) corn from a small cob.
Pounding corn was once part of its preparation. Women used a handmade corn grinder (potaka poteskwata) to create corn meal. Corn meal was so vital to the Shawnee diet that most families had an emergency bag of parched corn meal ready for sudden journeys. Hunters and warriors always carried corn meal wrapped in a small buckskin bag to keep it dry.
Fun Fact: Corn was developed from teosinte, a wild grass from central America. The first ears of corn were only a few inches long with eight rows of kernels. Over thousands of years, Native Americans increased the plant’s productivity.