Appalachia Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Cherokee Legend Of The Corn Bead

Cherokee Legend of the Corn Bead

 

Cherokee Legend Of The Corn Bead

Many years ago during the 1830’s, the Real People, as the Cherokee called themselves, were rounded up as cattle. They were forced to leave their homeland and walk west to a new land. They cried tears of sorrow and grief and hopelessness. Where their tears hit the ground, a plant sprung up. The seeds look like tears and their color is the color of grief. Today the Real People wear the seeds in necklaces, medallions, and earrings in memory of The Trail of Tears.

——————-

Last summer Blind Pig Reader, Peggy Lambert, sent me the legend above along with a handful of Cherokee Corn Beads so that I could grow my own Cherokee Corn Beads.

Cherokee corn beads

 

Peggy said to soak the beads before planting. Once the plants sprout-you can see why it’s called the corn bead. The plant looks very similar to corn-but doesn’t grow as tall.

As the beads begin to form on the plant they sort of hang down in a row-so they are easy to spot. Once the growing season winds down the beads will start to turn dark gray/black-which means they’re ready to pick. You can store them in a paper bag until they finish drying out-or spread them out over a tray to finish drying.

After the beads are dry they’re ready to use. Folks use them to make all sorts of jewelry-most of which you’d never guess the beads were home grown.

Peggy Lambert has done much to preserve her Cherokee Heritage-and I’m thankful she shared part of it with me. I don’t have many beads to share-but I’d like to give some to at least one Blind Pig reader. Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win your own start of Cherokee Corn Beads. (*Giveaway ends Wednesday May 28, 2014 @ midnight)

Tipper

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69 Comments

  • Reply
    Diane Patrum
    May 25, 2020 at 9:40 pm

    Oh my goodness, I would be so very honored to be the recipient of some your corn bead seeds!! My husband and I went to woods, felled the trees and built our very own log house the 18th century way…lots of hard work. I dearly love all heirloom plants and seeds. I am just thrilled that you are preserving this history for future generations. Love from Diane in NC

  • Reply
    Kayko Beal
    March 30, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    Hello, I was given the necklace I was told it was called something else, the seeds really look like what you have here, I’m wondering if there is a way I can send you a picture of this and you can tell me if it is made of these seeds? My husband is a Cherokee, I am heart chiricahua.

    • Reply
      tipper
      April 16, 2019 at 8:40 am

      Kayko-sure you can send me a photo at [email protected] 🙂

      • Reply
        Julia Shire
        January 14, 2020 at 5:53 am

        Hello, my name is Julia Shire. I am very intrigued and would love to know more about Cherokee traditions and herb uses. I am Cherokee with family that was part of trail of tears sadly. I am Recognized on a state level in Louisiana and both resorvations, N CAROLINA and OKLAHOMA. Researching for National Recognition bc it’s an honor. Please email me at [email protected] if you wouldn’t mind answering or asking questions. I also have shaman blood and consider myself a beginner shaman as well. Thank you for your time and wonderful article.

    • Reply
      R. Coon
      June 5, 2020 at 1:04 pm

      They are also often called job’s tears

  • Reply
    Kay
    March 5, 2017 at 11:01 am

    I know this is old, but I wondered if anyone might have some of these to share?
    Wado,
    Kay

  • Reply
    Pattie
    November 15, 2016 at 3:22 am

    My Grand Father grew these, and at his funeral we gave out hundreds of necklaces to everyone.
    My Mother still grows them from his seeds and makes necklaces, earrings etc.
    I have made crafts with them also. We have always called them Job’s Tears but described them as Indian beads.
    What has not been said yet , is how perfect of a bead they are, after they are dry you poke out the center ( we use a thicker needle) and there will be a perfect hole ready to string the seeds are shiny and hard .
    I decent crop will produce HUNDREDS!!! we save some for seeds ( leave the centers in) and the rest for beads.

  • Reply
    Jan Clifton Watford
    May 22, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    I have a corn bead basket that I inherited from my mother. She stressed to me the importance of it and that I should take good care of it and keep it in a safe place. I searched for ten years before finding information on corn beads and the connection it has to the Trail Of Tears. I do know there was Cherokee lineage on my mother’s side and think this basket must have a unique and interesting history. I know that my great grandmother stayed in Ga so am thinking maybe it was her relatives that had to leave and that is why the basket is so important. If you have any information on this, please contact me.

  • Reply
    Sarah (Sallie) Hood
    April 10, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    I am a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and a direct descendant of Nancy.Ward. always interested in learning the Cherokee ways
    Please keep me on your email list [email protected]

  • Reply
    sue richardson
    March 19, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing with us stories and history of The American Indian. i knew of the corn bead from stories told by my great grandmother… She was a Cherokee princess that was very beautiful both outside and inside… thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    Lillian Simons
    March 10, 2015 at 11:37 am

    I would like to be able to get some cornbeads. My family has just discovered our ancestry and would like to leave a bit of it for my grand babies and their babies. I am very proud of my ancestry and will protect it with my life, if need be. Being one of the grandmother’s of the Northern Cherokee Nation of Missouri, I would be honored to cherish the cornbeads.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 31, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Nancy-thank you for the comment! I will show more photos : )
    Tipper
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com
    On

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 31, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Alice-yes I have made butter from whipping cream! Check out this link-it has good directions on how to do it: http://toriavey.com/history-kitchen/2013/06/homemade-butter/
    The Old Fashioned Way: Homemade Butter Recipe
    How to make butter at home from scratch the old fashioned way using simple kitchen tools, no butter churn required. Includes brief butter history
    View on toriavey.com
    Preview by Yahoo
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 28, 2014 at 6:16 am

    Tipper,
    and Granny Norma…Thank you so much for the information. Very scary, the information that I read about the recall of the bracelets that were shipped out of one country.
    I am not sure that the seed that I was referring to was red with a black eye. Seems to me it was a cream colored seed and more round than the juqirity seed…
    I see that I will not be growing those seeds, due to the fact that they can be poisionous just handling them.
    I might just use me a “black-eyed” pea!…LOL
    Thank you Tipper,
    and Granny Norma for the info!

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 27, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Jim-thank you for the comment! Im sure if you google Cherokee Corn Beads or Jobs Tears you will find a place to buy them online : )
    Have a great night!
    Tipper
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Lyn
    May 27, 2014 at 3:57 am

    I live right near Cherokee (visit often!) and had never heard of this bead although I knew of the Trail Of Tears. What a wonderful way to remember those who passed during that time. Would love to win some of the seeds to keep them going.

  • Reply
    Granny Norma
    May 26, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    For b. Ruth: if that bead is red with a black eye at one end it is Jequirity bean and VERY POISONOUS! Unfortunately, they are attractive to small children. If chewed, they can kill. If swallowed, they can pass right through without ill effects.
    For Tipper: Thanks for the interesting story. I had never heard that one and my mother was born and raised on the Western Cherokee Reservation near Vinita Oklahoma. She did tell me about a bracelet that her grandfather had made for her from rattlesnake rattles to keep away evil spirits.
    About 40 years ago I grew some Job’s Tears. I got the seed from Gurney’s. It’s not a native plant but one of those invasive species which arrived from Asia (India specifically.) apparently a long time ago.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    May 26, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Such a sad, moving story — yet it shows the resiliency of these proud, downtrodden people. Thanks for sharing. Exciting to know the corn beads are just as tough & enduring.

  • Reply
    RB
    May 26, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    The Cherokee Corn Bead Seeds are very rare and are only disbursed, upon written request, to actual Cherokee tribal members, so it’s very very unusual for someone outside of the tribe to receive any and one who does or has is very blessed indeed.
    Now I’m not a tribal member, but am an elderly lady who makes and rehabs jewelry to supplement my retirement income. And I’d sure love to find a way to receive some of the seeds so I grow the plant both to perpetuate it and grow the supply of seeds, and to one day have an ample enough supply to make jewelry from them?
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Patti Tappel
    May 26, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Interesting! I’ve never hear of them. I loved reading all the comments.

  • Reply
    Sherry
    May 26, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Thank you so much for this story of the corn beads. I loved reading all the comments also. The Cherokee are part of my heart.

  • Reply
    Jamie Wyatt
    May 26, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Would love to grow Cherokee Corn Beads in honor of my maternal great grandmother’s Cherokee ancestors. I wish I’d been able to learn more about her plant knowledge. She died when I was in 10th grade….

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    May 26, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    The Corn Beads have a fiber through the center, when dry this fiber can be pulled out fairly easily leaving a hole to pass your thread through. I used to have and string Corn Beads but lost my seed stock. I would love to have seed again should I be lucky enough to win.

  • Reply
    JOHNIE T. ARANT
    May 26, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    I WOULD LOVE TO WIN ONE OF
    THESE CHEROKEE CORN BEADS
    NECKLES

  • Reply
    JOHNIE T. ARANT
    May 26, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    I WOULD LOVE TO WIN ONE OF
    THESE CHEROKEE CORN BEADS
    NECKLES

  • Reply
    JOHNIE T. ARANT
    May 26, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    I WOULD LOVE TO WIN ONE OF
    THESE CHEROKEE CORN BEADS
    NECKLES

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    May 26, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Tipper,
    Peggy sure gave us a good topic for us
    to ponder on. This is an Indian Corn
    that’s not familiar to me either, and
    the story behind it is even better.
    I’ve seen the drama “Unto These Hills”
    several times at Cherokee. It’s one of
    the best ways to describe the plight of
    the Cherokee Nation, most being driven
    out and placed in Oklahoma. But some
    were determined and hid in the hills
    and survived the exodus. This was a
    bad scar in American History…Ken

  • Reply
    Pat Dobbins
    May 26, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    I have a necklace made out of seeds made by a Native American in Utah. Don’t remember what kind of seed they are but I really like it and wear it often.

  • Reply
    Alice Jones
    May 26, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Tipper have you ever made butter from heavy cream?

  • Reply
    Annette Casada Hensley
    May 26, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I always enjoy reading the beautiful stories and legends of our native Americans. Like my brother Jim, I’m pretty cognizant of much of the Cherokee culture, but this story was new to me and I loved it. Sounds like more than one culture saw it as a “tear.” Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Pamela
    Thank you for the great link!
    Tipper
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Jean
    May 26, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Hi Tipper,You again take me down memory lane,little over 50 years ago my daughters G-grandmother,Big Mom from Ky gave me a bracelet.She was half Cherokee.Though I knew it was a Indian bracelet,I didn’t know until reading your blog that it was made from Cherokee corn beads.I thought they were glass beads.Anyway,I woke my daughter asking her if she remembered it and said I was sorry but I must have lost it.She said,you gave it to me when I moved here to Hawaii and it went missing from my things in storage.So one of these days we’ll be ordering some gray corn beads. God Bless.

  • Reply
    Allison P Britt
    May 26, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Such an interesting post…. The brownish, smaller ones remind me of chinquapins. Never heard of the Cherokee corn bead before, but won’t forget about them.

  • Reply
    Amy Wyatt
    May 26, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Thank you for sharing! I would love to be included in the drawing. 🙂

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    May 26, 2014 at 11:29 am

    What a wonderful story and a wonderful way to honor and remember the Cherokee people who sacrificed so much. It is so sad to know that humans can treat other humans in such a cruel and inhumane way. I am a crafter and would love some of these beads. How pretty they would look maybe woven onto a gourd bowl.

  • Reply
    Wanda
    May 26, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Met a man many yrs. ago whose grandmother ( don’t know how many greats) was taken into a white family here & adopted from the Trail of Tears. He had asked me if I had any Cherokee ancestors due to my appearance & when I told him I did, he told me about his grandmother. It was a brief conversation as he was busy working but I wish I’d had time to hear more.
    When I first read the title today, I thought it said corn bread so of course I was extra interested. The real story is even better–I would love to try to grow some of the corn beads.

  • Reply
    Pamela Moore
    May 26, 2014 at 11:13 am

    I found this website with a lot of information on seeds used for jewelry:
    http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ww0901.htm

  • Reply
    Tom
    May 26, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Thanks Tipper and Peggy for sharing. I have always been interested in anything related to the Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears.

  • Reply
    Mrs. K
    May 26, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I’ve never heard of the corn beads before, how very interesting! Thank you.

  • Reply
    Miriam Rahn
    May 26, 2014 at 10:25 am

    I would love to try these seeds and show them to my best friend whose grandfather was a Cherokee (but she has lost track of all family members because of a divorce.

  • Reply
    Janice McCall
    May 26, 2014 at 10:10 am

    If they will survive in zone 9, Ocala Florida, I’d consider it a real honor to have corn beads!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 26, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Tipper,
    I have seen these but not in years. My Mother got some from her Mother and they called them Jobs Tears…but there story was that the Cherokee used them for beads. Mother guarded those beads. I don’t know whatever happened to them or if she just saved the seeds. I have seen necklaces made from them. My first glance when starting to read this post, my mind told me Indian Cornbread…LOL Oh boy, a flash went thru my mind, a way I can use all that colorful Indian corn Mom bought, besides putting it in a fall door arrangement!
    Thanks Tipper and Peggy for this post. How wonderful to hear the rest of the story about the beads.
    Now that I have Jobs Tears and Cherokee Indian Bead story separated in my mind I will write it down to save with some seeds if ever I come across some more…hint hint..
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Do you or Peggy know who would make intricate necklaces out of apple seeds? I was given one years ago, but there was not a story with it, who made it (or them) or what part of the country it was from..I was told it was from the USA..
    Also, I have seen a bead (seed) that has a little black eye..A seed that Native Americans used to make beads…could you tell me what that plant could be?

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    May 26, 2014 at 9:54 am

    My Grandmother grew these and she called them Job’s tears. I would really like a start of the seed maybe if I am not a winner you can remember me this fall after your harvest. The Girls should love these!

  • Reply
    C. Ron Perry, Sr.
    May 26, 2014 at 9:48 am

    What we did to the American Indians was a shameful part of our great American history. Thank God that today things are improving so that ALL Americans can live together in peace and with respect for one another. To all my fellow Marines, Semper Fi and to all of the others who served in uniform, thank you.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    May 26, 2014 at 9:31 am

    I hadn’t heard of these before but they piqued my curiosity and, of course, that led to searching the internet. Since I rarely find the same options listed for the same topic on various days, I thought I’d share these sites – one a recipe plus anecdotes, and one from webmd about interactions – which I thought were interesting. There were lots of sites about jewelry making with them so I didn’t share that one. Also, found one that said they would only grow along the Trail of Tears but think we can already discount that idea.
    Thanks for an intriguing diversion – I hope you enjoy the links below.
    http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2012/05/swiss-chard-with-white-beans-and-jobs-tears.html
    http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1164-JOB%27S+TEARS.aspx?activeIngredientId=1164&activeIngredientName=JOB%27S+TEARS

  • Reply
    Nancy
    May 26, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Please share more photos as your plants progress. I’m interested in learning more about them also. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Brenda McLaine
    May 26, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Enjoyed the story about the beads. I have seen the play “Trail of Tears” while visiting NC several years ago. I love your page and the music. We have followed the Bluegrass circuit for many years. I would love some of the beads since I love to see things come to life when planted.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 26, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Melody-it appears they can be eaten. Check out the link above that I found on Dave’s Garden Forum.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 26, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Jim-a little googling shows they beads are indeed edible. As Linda pointed out-the plant is also called Jobs Tears. Searching for that name turned up more information than searching for Cherokee Corn Beads. Daves Garden Forum has a good page on the plant see the link in the comments above.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 26, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Linda-thank you for the additional info about the beads! Neat to know they’ll re-seed themselves from year to year : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 26, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Dolores-Granny has used the beads to make necklaces – so I don’t think getting the thread through is too difficult : )
    Tipper
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 26, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Sharon-I’m thinking you could probably buy the seed on Ebay or from a specialty seed seller. Also-search for Job’s Tears as some folks refer to the plant by that name. You can also use google images to see more photos of the plant-searching for either Cherokee Corn Bead or Jobs Tears.

  • Reply
    Jim Graham
    May 26, 2014 at 8:55 am

    What a WONDERFUL story !! And I supposedly have Cherokee blood on my mother’s side… going way back in Kentucky. I would love to win, and be honored, some of these !
    For those of us that may not win… is there somewhere where we could order some of these ?
    Crossing my fingers !!

  • Reply
    pinnaclecreek
    May 26, 2014 at 8:36 am

    What a wonderful story. I would love to win some corn beads. Native Americans have such devotion to nature and land. We could certainly learn from them.

  • Reply
    Sharon
    May 26, 2014 at 8:20 am

    I have never heard of Cherokee corn beads or seen the plant. What is another source for getting some to plant other than hoping to win some? Would like to see photos of the mature plant.

  • Reply
    dolores
    May 26, 2014 at 8:15 am

    That is a very interesting story; I’m glad that Peggy shared it with you and you in turn shared it with your readers. I wonder how difficult it might be to put a hole through the seed in order to make it a part of a bracelet or necklace.

  • Reply
    LINDA L. KERLIN
    May 26, 2014 at 8:15 am

    I have grown your corn beads for years but the olde man who gave me the seeds called them job’s tears and indeed he did say that the indians did grow them —here in the part of Penna. I live in had alot of indians upon the land—in fact our log cabin was once thought to be a fur trapping trading post—-I never soaked the seeds either and if one does not gather all the seeds at the end of the season they will self-seed and your will have a crop of seeds the following year as well.

  • Reply
    Lanie
    May 26, 2014 at 8:14 am

    I’ve never heard that legend either. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    May 26, 2014 at 8:14 am

    What a poignant and touching legend of the tear beads. I have a book I turn to often for reflection and inspiration–and yes, even for tears, shed in our years, long after the great exodus on the Trail of Tears, thinking on what their great sorrow must have been. The book is entitled “A Cherokee Feast of Days” by Joyce Sequiche Hifler (Tulsa, OK: Council Oak, 1992). On p. 142 she quotes Crowfoot, 1821: “What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night…the breath of a buffalo in the winter time…a little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” And on page 310 in the same book Little Wound’s quotation: “I heard…that I should be like a man without a country. I shed tears.”

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 26, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Interesting, I was expecting a recipe, lol.

  • Reply
    Barbara Woodall
    May 26, 2014 at 7:54 am

    I loved this! Thank you!!
    http://www.itsnotmymountainanymore.com

  • Reply
    kat
    May 26, 2014 at 7:47 am

    HAve never heard the story of the Cherokee corn bead. Enjoyed learning about it.Your posts usually start my day. Have a good day.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 26, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Thanks Tipper and Peggy for sharing this with us. I can see why they would make beautiful jewelry. It’s a beautiful heritage but a sad remembrance.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 26, 2014 at 7:23 am

    Tipper–This piece was a nice surprise to start off Memorial Day and the week. I would like to think I’m moderately conversant with Cherokee customs and folklore, but this information from Peggy Lambert was new to me.
    Of course, given my insatiable curiosity (and interest in food) I wondered if the corn beads have any uses beyond decorative purposes. Are they edible? Are the beads (or stalks) suitable for fodder for cows or hogs? Do they have some other purpose?
    Just curious, and maybe Peggy can supply some answers or additional details.
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  • Reply
    Melody M
    May 26, 2014 at 7:22 am

    What a interesting legend. Can they be eaten? Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    janice jimenez
    May 26, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Such a sad story!without the native american people,we would be such a sad bunch of humans.

  • Reply
    TimMc
    May 26, 2014 at 7:12 am

    Interesting, don’t believe I’ve ever heard the tale or seen the plant before.. but count me in on the give away.. thks

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