Stone Child College Researches Corn

Feb 15th, 2010 | By | Category: 21-3: Tribal College Faculty, Spring 2010, Tribal College News

By Larry Gomoll

In the shadow cast by Haystack Mountain on the Rocky Boy Reservation, I met with Gilbert Tyner, a gregarious, open man with strong Native American cultural roots. I came to talk with him about his garden, in particular his corn crop. The stalks stood head height, almost white in the late October morning light.

Tyner lovingly inspected a cob, carefully stripping back the shucks. “Look how thin these inner shucks are. My dad used to select only the thinnest to use for his ceremonial smoke, the thinner the better. If they are too thick, it tastes like you’re smoking cardboard.” Stripping the remaining husks, he exposes a beautiful, five-inch long cob with lavender-shaded corn grains in compact rows. He already has the seeds for next year drying inside.

Originally from Oklahoma, Tyner married Wilma Jean Denny, and they have been living in Rocky Boy for a dozen or so years. “I can’t imagine how long this corn has been in our family. It

is part of my heritage along with making a flint fire. In August when we harvested and shucked a large amount, my fiveyear-old grandson asked, ‘Grandpa, are we farmers?’”

Tyner shares his memories about the farming culture of his Shawnee people of northeastern Oklahoma, including how to prepare hominy and how to grind corn using perforated sheet metal to make cornbread pork casserole.

Recently the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Stone Child College an agricultural research grant that will center on Mahtahmin, which means mysterious plant – corn – in Cree. The project will explore the potential for open-pollinated corn crops. Next summer the college will plant several plots. Tyner has agreed to consult with SCC’s researchers on this project. Douglas Crebs is the principal investigator.

The tribal college will also be collaborating with two local farmers, Bob Quinn and Dave Christiansen, who have been breeding open-pollination corn for many years.

Soil samples from the tribal college plots will be analyzed during the winter. These plots will be used for several years. They will help meet our communities’ goals for Community Supported Agriculture and a future curriculum based on the Garden as Classroom concept.

For more information, contact Larry Gomoll at gomollel@hotmail.com.

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