Green Corn Harvest Celebration

By Ardith Van Riper

     Around this time of the year, our harvest season is when Ho-Chunk people use to make sure we had enough food to get us through winter.  We would gather our foods and prepare them for storage.  Some foods were also prepared and shared in celebration because the harvests we received were a gift from the Creator.

     On October 4, a Green Corn Harvest Celebration took place behind the Tribal Office Building near Black River Falls, Wisc.  An Earth oven was created, various dishes were prepared, the moccasin game was played, a meal was shared, and a singing and dancing celebration took place.

     “Pre-colonial time, we didn’t have these big steel pots and propane stoves.  We had to utilize what was around us.  We used the Earth, the stones, and fire,” explained Jon Greendeer, who coordinated the event.  “We dug these holes and put our food in there.  We not only put corn and squash in there but deer meat, bison, and fish.  They were cooked this way.”

     Greendeer’s family gathered sweet corn and soaked them in water in advance.  Jon’s brother started a fire early in the morning to get the stones hot.  Tony Yellowbank and Jesse Blackdeer piled the heated rocks, the corn husks, the corn, a canvas, and the soil into the Earth oven. 

     A variety of harvest exhibitions took place in the meantime.

     Approximately four to five hours later, they removed the corn from the Earth oven.

     A harvest-themed potluck meal served in the Tribal Office Building cafeteria.

     A singing and dancing celebration took place later in the evening.  The Green Corn Dance lasted a few hours, and the dancers and singers rallied until the end.