Grant helps Oneida
Tribe process, produce corn
Wisconsin: According to Oneida tradition, white corn has been a
part of tribal culture since the world's creation, and a $30,700
grant will help keep it that way.
The Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin's agricultural program,
Tsyunhehkwa, received the grant this week from First Nations
Development Institute of Longmont, Colo., which supports
initiatives that improve economic conditions for American
Tsyunhehkwa will use the money to buy a gravity box, a
commercial dehydrator and vacuum sealer, said its director, Jeff
"This grant is going to help us process and preserve the corn
better," Metoxen said.
Tsyunhehkwa grows and harvests organic white corn and produces a
variety of corn products through methods ranging from ancient to
modern, Metoxen said. Staff members plant and harvest by hand,
but they also use tractors. They dry the corn by braiding and
hanging it, and by using forced-air gravity boxes and commercial
The old methods are used to preserve and teach tradition, and
the newer methods are used primarily for their practical value —
to produce products like corn soup, corn bread, hull corn and
dehydrated corn, which are then sold through Tsyunhehkwa's
retail operation, Metoxen said.
New, larger modern equipment will help the organization produce
more product more efficiently, he said.
"We don't have to increase acreage at this point, but this will
help us with preventing loss due to spoilage, and to process
faster, more efficiently and more safely," he said.
Oneida white corn is used strictly for human consumption, not as
livestock feed, but it has a moisture content that is too high
to allow processing, Metoxen said.
The traditional drying method involved braiding and hanging the
stalks to let some of the ears dry over time. Tsyunhehkwa also
uses a gravity box, which is a bin with a fan on the bottom.
Tsyunhehkwa needs another gravity box for more capacity but it
also needs a large commercial dehydrator to replace the 16 or so
small ones — each about the size of a microwave oven — to do the
work more efficiently, Metoxen said.
Tsyunhehkwa has a vacuum sealer for canning, but it also is a
small, microwave-sized unit that can't keep up with the scale of
Aside from making the traditional food available to the tribe
and teaching preparation methods, Tsyunhehkwa plans to invite
members of other Wisconsin tribes to see and learn about the
equipment so they can develop similar programs, Metoxen said.
Metoxen said he hopes the new equipment would be available in
time for this fall's harvest.
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