Background History

The Native American holiday of the Green Corn Feast (or Festival, or Dance) varies from tribe to tribe, and in some tribes is, indeed, celebrated to this day. It is considered such an important and sacred festival. Some tribes celebrate it earlier than August 1st, believing that the green corn must be blessed, and the homes & people of the tribe cleansed, and made worthy, before the first corn could be harvested. There is a tremendous, wise, and insightful book about the Cherokee relationship to Selu, the Corn-Mother, and modern life, Selu: Seeking the Corn Mother’s Wisdom, (Fulcrum Press, 1993), written by Marilou Awiaktka. Some tribes believe that they were even made from corn by the Great Spirits. Dragonfly's Tale by Kristina Rodanas and People of Corn, A Mayan Story retold by Mary-Joan Gerson tell of such beliefs.

 The Green Corn Dance (or Festival) is held by many Native American tribes, such as the Creek, Cherokee, Seminole, Muscogee, Yuchi, and Iroquois Indians, as well as most Pueblo tribes of the Southwest, such as the Hopi and Santa Clara. Sometimes it is called the Peace Festival among the Shawnees and other corn-growing tribes and might also properly be called the First Fruits Festival.

Authentic corn festivals typically last for three to four days.  The opening day of the ceremony varies across tribes depending when the corn is ripe.  During the festival, members of the tribe give thanks for the corn, rain, sun, and a good harvest.  Another part of the religious ceremony is the busk. The word busk comes from the word “boskita” and means to fast. Corn is not to be eaten until the Great Spirit has been properly thanked. 

The Green Corn Festival is also a religious renewal.  The overriding themes are: cleansing, renewal, forgiveness, diversity and respect, and most importantly, gratitude for what they had been blessed with in their lives.

The festival begins by participants entering through and arbor decorated with corn, brush, and other plants. This is the true Mohegan “wigwam”. The name "Wigwam" comes from the word “wigwomun”, meaning "welcome" or "come in the house." In many ways, the wigwam is a community “open house” and “homecoming.” 

Ceremonies were held for both planting and harvesting corn. The New England tribes’ spring Green Corn ceremony was to ask for bountiful harvest. In August, also the month of the Celtic Lughnasadh (lu-na-sa) or Lammas, the Green Corn celebrated the first harvest. Cornmeal symbolizes fertility, healing, and powers of people, animals, rituals and objects.

The ritual itself may be proceeded by games, including traditional native ball games, and craft-making.  People should council with each other for forgiveness of wrongdoings and debts.  Young people should be given council as to their new spirit names to be announced in ritual.  This is a good opportunity for palmistry, tea leaf reading, and tarot readings before ritual.