HASTINGS – Electa Hare-RedCorn removed the husk from the cob and studied the multicolored kernels, seeing more than just corn.
LORI POTTER still water press
For the Pawnee woman, this corn represents history and heritage, food and family, culture and community.
On a recent Wednesday, varieties of corn that two decades ago had vanished from the Great Plains were laid out on the floor of a gymnasium at a community college in Hastings.
Hare-RedCorn paced the ranks, inspecting the crop.
The fact that Pawnee corn exists even in 2021 is a story of tribal perseverance, cutting-edge horticulture, and good old-fashioned cooperation. It is the story of this new culture that connects the Pawnee to their ancestors, and each Nebraska to a story that began long before the settlers arrived in the Great Plains.
“Corn has defined us,” said Deb Echo-Hawk, the Pawnee seed keeper. “It was something that was part of our daily life …
“Growing it again is a way to get back to who we really are and put corn back in the center of our lives. “
The Pawnee may have been in Nebraska as early as the 13th century.
By the early 1800s, over 10,000 Pawnee in four separate bands lived and hunted across Nebraska and northern Kansas. By 1872, there were only 2,447 left – the tribe decimated by famine, locust infestations and attacks from other tribes.