For the Oneida people, yukwanénste has two meanings: our corn and our precious. Corn has walked alongside the Oneida and other Haudenosaunee people since creation, playing an integral role in their daily and ceremonial lives throughout their often turbulent history. The relationship between corn and the Oneida has changed over time, but the spirit of this important resource has remained by their side, helping them heal along the way. In Our Precious Corn: Yukwanénste, author Rebecca M. Webster (Kanyʌʔtake·lu), an Oneida woman and Indigenous corn grower, weaves together the words of explorers, military officers, and anthropologists, as well as historic and other contemporary Haudenosaunee people, to tell a story about their relationships with corn. Interviews with over fifty Oneida community members describe how the corn has made positive impacts on their lives, as well as hopeful visions for its future. As an added bonus, the book includes an appendix of different cooking and preparation methods for corn, including traditional and modern recipes.
Rebecca M. Webster serves on the faculty at the University of Minnesota Duluth in their Department of American Indian Studies. She is a founding member of Ohe∙láku (among the cornstalks), a co-op of ten Oneida families that grow multiple acres of traditional heirloom corn together. She and her husband also own a farmstead on the Oneida Reservation where they primarily grow Haudenosaunee varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, sunchokes, and tobacco. Their philosophy is that every time an Indigenous person plants a seed, it is an act of resistance, an assertion of sovereignty, and a reclamation of identity. In light of this philosophy, an Oneida faithkeeper named the ten-acre homestead Ukwakhwa: Tsinu Niyukwayayʌthoslu (Our Foods: Where we plant things), a name which also lends itself to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Ukwakhwa Inc., that Webster formed with her family to help advance their goals of helping share knowledge with the community.