In Abenaki legend, corn is a gift from the gods in the form of a black bird. The story goes this way:
On a cold night in the forest, Mon-do-min, an old, lame hunter, lay dying from hunger. He prayed to the gods of the southern sky to send him food. Suddenly a small, black bird appeared. The man caught the bird, prepared a fire, and began to roast his meal.
He was about to eat the bird when he heard someone crying. He followed the sound and found an injured woman and her child. He brought them back to his camp and gave them the bird to eat, saying, “The Great Spirit has spoken. You must live. I must die. But remember me when you see others alone and hungry. Share with them.”
In the early spring, the old man’s tribe found his grave covered with green plants. The Great Spirit told them that the plants would ripen into full ears of a grain that would feed everyone.
The black bird symbolizes the vessel for gathering, the yellow kernel, the food we share, and Mon-do-min, the act of nurturing others.