Long ago, there was a village that had good corn harvests year after year. The people became over-proud and careless.
They quit weeding their corn. They trampled the stalks. When the time came for harvesting, they didn't carefully tend to their stores. They threw corn to their dogs. They didn't make their baskets for storing their harvest well. They didn't dig their holes for storing their baskets deep. Worst of all, they had forgotten to thank their Creator for their harvest.
The people figured that if their corn didn't hold out, there was always game to hunt.
But one year, they harvested little. The birds got most of what there was and that wasn't much. So they tried to gather meat. But they couldn't find any game. They tried to fish, but the streams and creeks were empty. So they dug up their corn baskets, but the mice had gotten into their stores and there weren't any left. They now faced starvation from their carelessness.
Only one man remembered to show respect. His name was Dayohagwenda. Dayohagwenda cared for his fields and weeded them. He harvested his corn carefully and gave thanks for his good harvest. He stored his corn with great care. He was sad about the way the others acted.
Meanwhile, Dayohagwenda was walking in the forest. He was thinking about the way his people no longer showed respect for the corn or gave thanks.
As he walked, he found an old trail. It led to a clearing in the forest. In that clearing was a lodge made of elm bark and built on top of a mound of earth. Weeds grew all around the lodge. In front of the lodge, an old man dressed in torn clothing sat weeping.
"Grandfather," Dayohagwenda said, "why are you weeping?"
"I am weeping because your people have forgotten me."
"Why are your clothes torn?"
"They are torn because your people threw me to their dogs."
"Why are you so dirty?"
"I am dirty because your people let their children trample me."
"Why are there weeds around your lodge?"
"Your people no longer take care of me. Now I must go away and I can never return again to help them."
Now Dayohagwenda knew the old man was the Corn Spirit.
"Grandfather," Dayohagwenda said, "do not leave us. I still respect you. I will go back and remind my people how to treat you."
The old man stopped weeping. "Grandson," he said, "I will stay with you. If your people honor me, I will not leave them."
Dayohagwenda went back to the village. "We are going to starve," the people said. "Our corn is gone and we have no other food."
"Listen," said Dayohagwenda, "I have been in the forest. There I found a lodge surrounded by weeds and an old man wearing torn clothing the color of corn husks. He said his people deserted him and he was going to leave forever."
The people understood. "It is Corn Spirit," they said. "He has left us and now we will surely die."
"No," said Dayohagwenda, "I spoke with Corn Spirit. I told him we would honor him. He said that if so, he will help us through the winter."
Then Dayohagwenda dug up his own stored corn. His baskets had been well made. He had dug his granary deep and covered it properly. All of his harvest was there.
There was more than he had remembered storing, much more. There was enough to feed the whole village through the winter. There was even enough left to use as seed corn for planting in the spring when the leaves of the maple tree were the size of a squirrel's ear.
From then on, Dayohagwenda's people always showed respect for the corn. They planted with care and hoed and weeded. They sang songs of thanksgiving as they harvested. They made strong baskets and deep storage pits for their granaries.
Most of all, they remembered to give thanks for the blessing of corn and all of the other good things they had been given. They taught their children and their children's children to do the same.
So it is to this day.
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