The Unknown Woman

Two Choctaw hunters camped for the night on a bend in the Alabama River. They were tired and discouraged, having hunted for two days and killed only one black hawk. They had no game to take back to their village.

While they were roasting the hawk on a campfire for their supper, they heard a low plaintive sound like the call of a dove. The sad notes broke the deep night silence again and again. As the full moon rose across the river, the strange sound became more distinct.

The men looked up and down the river but saw only the sandy shore in the moonlight. Then they looked in the opposite direction and to their astonishment saw a beautiful woman dressed in white, standing on a mound. She beckoned to the hunters.

"I'm very hungry," the woman said.

One of the hunters ran to the campfire and brought the roasted hawk to the woman. After she had eaten some, she gave the rest back to them. "You have saved me from death. I will not forget your kindness. One full moon from now, in midsummer, return to the mound where I am standing."

Suddenly a gentle breeze came up, and the woman disappeared as mysteriously as she had come.

The hunters knew they had seen Unknown Woman, the daughter of the Great Spirit. They returned to their village, but kept secret the strange meeting with the woman.
One month later, when the moon was full, the hunters came back to the place where Unknown Woman had spoken to them. As the moon rose over the opposite bank, they stood at the foot of the mound, waiting. But Unknown Woman was nowhere to be seen.

"She has not come as she promised," they said to each other.

Then one hunter remembered, "She told us to come to the very spot where she stood." So the men climbed the mound. They could not believe what they saw; the mound was covered with a plant they had never seen before. It was a tall plant with leaves like knives and delicate tassels emerging from the spike-like fruit or ears. Inside the ears was a delicious food.

So it was that the Choctaws received the gift of corn. They cultivated corn ever afterward and never again were hungry.