New England heirloom corn grown on its native land for the first time in 300 years

WCAI Massachusetts has an inspiring story about a Mashpee-Wampanoag woman who was given a rare opportunity to grow a traditional corn strain on its native land again, after Puritan colonists had tried to ravage the crop. During a particularly bloody conflict known as King Philip's War, which ran between 1675 and 1676, colonists destroyed thousands of acres of Wampanoag crops. The flint corn strain came to be known as King Philip's Corn, after the leader of the Wampanoag people, Metacom, who in 1660 requested that the Puritans give him an English name as a gesture of solidarity; they dubbed him "King Philip," and 16 years later, they quartered his body and mounted his head on a pike at the entrance to the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Did I say this was an "inspiring" story? Right! Anyway!

The WCAI piece focuses on Danielle Hill, who was given the King Philip Corn seeds by a group called True Love Seeds, who describes themselves as "a farm-based seed company offering culturally important and open pollinated vegetable, herb, and flower seeds." She had been dreaming about corn — through her pregnancy, and her postpartum care — and the offering seemed like an opportunity, a spiritual moment, and a reckoning of sorts:

"The Wampanoag word for corn is weeâchumun, but apparently the King Philip corn name came when all of the corn was raided and all of the fields and the crops were burned. So apparently this is the corn that non-natives, colonists had salvaged and saved for themselves and just continued to grow out."

It's been more than 340 years since King Philip's Corn and the land it was grown on was taken from the Wampanoag. This May under a new moon, four hundred years after the arrival of the first colonists, Danielle and a few other tribal members held a planting ceremony and returned King Philip's Corn to Wampanoag land. They planted 200 mounds of the landrace flint corn with native squash and beans and as the corn grew, Danielle began to feel a heavy sense of responsibility.

"I was so invested, it was this nurturing that I didn't know existed in me beyond my kids. It was like I have something sacred and I need to really take care of it and take it seriously like especially the story and the significance and the history."

I've always been surprised that so-called "Indian corn" has yet to become a hipster bastion, with locally-sourced handmade grass-fed organic heirloom pop corn or boutique craft corn syrups done in that uniquely douchey American way. But this … this is so much better.

A Mashpee Wampanoag woman reconnects with a traditional corn [Elspeth Hay / WCAI Cape & Islands]

Image: Vilseskogen / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)