Iroquois White Corn Project

The Story of Our Corn

Corn has been one of our People's food staples - along with beans and squash, often called The Three Sisters - in our traditional language referred to as the food that "sustains us." Enjoy reading the story of these sisters that has been passed down through generations. And, watch how Three Three Sisters Garden is planted at Ganondagan. 

Iroquois white corn is a vital food in many Haudenosaunee kitchens across the region and in indigenous kitchens throughout the hemisphere. Our particular Iroquois White Corn is an heirloom seed that dates back at least 1,400 years. It was grown in abundance at the 17th century town of Ganondagan to sustain the 4,500 Seneca people living there, until 500,000 bushels of it were completely burnt down by the French in a dispute over the Fur Trade. Fortunately, generations of seed-savers kept the precious corn seeds in order to continue propagation of our crucial, heirloom food.

White corn is central to healthy lives and healthy communities of the Haudenosaunee. Foods are much more than commodities in our communities. Distinct foods convey symbolic meaning to our culture, and food habits and beliefs are integrated into our traditional way of life. Over the past century, consumption of traditional foods has been declining among indigenous peoples worldwide, including those in the communities served directly by the Iroquois White Corn Project.

Exposing people to traditional food knowledge expands their choices and therefore their power over their own lives. Food knowledge involves not only understanding what foods are appropriate, but why and how they are obtained, grown and processed. There are economic as well as health and social issues to be addressed, including support of community agriculture and how family household budgets can be more efficient while making healthier nutrition choices. With the changes in our national food supply and concerns over its quality and safety, these are issues of national concern. Our project seeks to create dialogue about - and expansion of - traditional food knowledge, targeting individuals, families, communities, and the nation.

The contemporary health food, slow food, or local food movement is following the pattern of traditional attitudes toward food and identity. The Iroquois Corn Project combines the issues that identify a health food movement with support for a cultural awareness needed to make conscious choices both for nutritional needs and community strength.