Saturday, March 15, 2008

Homage to the Hopi Corn Maiden

The days of the Hopi corn farmers running 10 miles from their high mesa top pueblo homes to tend their cornfields are long gone, but they still utilize centuries-old techniques for nurturing corn seed into a treasured and often bountiful crop on their bitterly dry and harsh reservation homeland. Their horticulture technique starts with finding areas of the valley floor prone to flooding, planting multiple seeds in widely spaced holes at a depth of about one foot so the roots (that may grow down as much as 20 feet) can absorb moisture from the sandy subsoil. The green plants then come up in communal clumps that have a better chance of resisting the harsh dry, high desert winds. Chances for a successful harvest is further enhanced by seed planting at differing times in a variety of locations. A successful Hopi cornfield is a triumphant sight and looks so different than the nearly impenetrable cornfields that dominate so much of the landscape in America's Midwest. I found the beautiful barrette shown above on my recent buying trip to Hopiland. I was hesitant to make the purchase when I saw it was marked $295, but given what it represented and that it was a product of Hopi master silversmith Berra Tawahongva, I could not pass. The barrette shows a corn maiden tending to a single corn stock. The hand on the right represents the medicine she is giving to the corn and the two crescents facing each other within the hand represent friendship. It is a beautiful piece showing a heritage of survival that should never be forgotten.