“The Corn Husker” (1903) by E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Corn (maize) is an important staple food for many Indigenous peoples in North and Central America. Typically planted with squash and beans, these three plants make up what is colloquially called “The Three Sisters.”

“The Corn Husker” by E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Hard by the Indian lodges, where the bush
Breaks in a clearing, through ill-fashioned fields,
She comes to labour, when the first still hush
Of autumn follows large and recent yields.
Age in her fingers, hunger in her face,
Her shoulders stooped with weight of work and years,
But rich in tawny colouring of her race,
She comes a-field to strip the purple ears.
And all her thoughts are with the days gone by,
Ere might’s injustice banished from their lands
Her people, that to-day unheeded lie,
Like the dead husks that rustle through her hands.

Note: This poem was originally published in Canadian Born (Toronto: Morang, 1903).


  1. While initially an important symbol of sustenance, corn becomes something else in this poem. How has corn shifted, or come to carry alternate understandings, in the woman’s mind, due to “might’s injustice?”
  2. What does this say about colonial actions and their impact on Indigenous peoples?