Mother Corn’s Sacred Bundle

The Arikara are Plains Indians whose land is adjacent to that of the Mandans, and some versions of their creation myth are clearly related to the Mandan creation myth. The familiar figure of Lone Man is present in one version. He is born of a plant and seems to have developed under the influence of the Christian missionaries.

The primary Arikara creation—an emergence myth —is recited at the spring ceremonies to celebrate the opening of Mother Corn’s “sacred bundle.”

In the beginning the great sky chief, Nishanu, made giants, but these creatures had no respect for their maker and were destroyed by a great flood . Only a few good giants were preserved as corn kernels under the ground.

Nishanu also planted some corn in the heavens. Out of this corn came Mother Corn, who descended to the earth to lead the people out. Since the people were still animals then, they dug their way out with Mother Corn’s encouragement. Then the mother led the people from the east, where they had emerged, to the west, where they are now. 

Mother Corn then went back to heaven, but while she was gone the people made trouble and started killing each other. She returned later with a leader for the people, named Nishanu after his maker, in whose image he was made. The leader taught the people how to fight enemies rather than each other. Mother Corn taught them the ceremonies.

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