Native American Tales

Turkey Makes the Corn and Coyote Plants It

Turkey Makes the Corn and Coyote Plants ItTurkey Makes the Corn and Coyote Plants It

White Mountain Apache

Back when the animals talked just like people, Turkey heard a boy begging his sister for food. He asked what was the matter. Turkey could shake his body and make food. He shook his body the first time and many kinds of fruit and good things to eat fell out of his body, which the children made. Then Turkey shook his body again and made big corn. He shook it again and made yellow corn. He shook himself again and made white corn.

Bear was there and knew Turkey could only shake himself four times to make food come out. So Bear shook himself. Bear dropped Juniper berries, a cactus that is good to eat, acorns, another kind of cactus, Gambel Oak acorns, blue oak acorns, pinion nuts, a species of sumac, manzanita berries, wild mulberries and saguaro fruit.

The children were instructed to plant the corn by Turkey which they did. Turkey also defended the crops and made sure they were pollinated. After four days the corn grew. Turkey told the children it would take much longer the next time. The children also planted other gardens.

Coyote came along and wanted corn to plant and eat from others. He cooked his corn before he planted it, thinking he was going to save time, but his corn never came up. He accused others of taking the heart of his corn, but in reality Coyote had cooked the heart out of it. People became tired of Coyote borrowing food and never repaying them. So they told him that he had to go live elsewhere, which he did, but to this day Coyote does not cook his food before he eats it.


Corn is a huge deal in the Americas. It’s what the native peoples, up and down the Americas, ate if they were farmers. As such, there are plenty of stories about corn and how it came to be. Corn is still a large part of the Americas today. South and Central America still heavily consume corn as well as does North America. Although, North America tends to process its corn a little more than South America and Central America.

This is the first time I’ve heard of Turkey giving corn to the people.


This story is part origin story, but part gardening lesson. You cannot cook your corn before you plant it. In fact, I know of absolutely no vegetable that a person can cook and then still plant, not a one. Seeds don’t work like that. You cook seeds and you destroy the the part inside that germinates. That little part of the seed is strong enough to withstand a heck of a lot of stuff, but you can’t cook it. It’s just one of those parts of life where you have to follow directions. You cannot do it any other way. You plant corn first, then cook it when it’s ripe.

It also goes to show you that gardening doesn’t really have the easy way. You can’t grow pizza plants and stuff. You have to grow your ingredients, which do not come out of the ground cooked.


You want a garden? You have to follow the gardening rules.

Weigh In

What food would you plant already cooked, if it were possible?

Do you think Coyote was being lazy or smart?


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