IACA Journal Fall 2013 - page 6

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IACA Journal | Fall 2013
Fall Harvest and The Three Sisters
In our country today there is a growing awareness and demand
for sustainable, locally grown, organic food products, along
with increasing thoughts on survival. What better way to teach
self-sufficiency and food security than to follow the traditional
Iroquoian ways of “Tsyunhehkwa” (life sustenance) where foods
are cultivated, gathered, and preserved.
by Mark and Diane Fischer
In the Creation Story, after Sky Woman’s daughter died in childbirth, corn, beans,
and squash grew from her grave. These female plants became the main staple of the
Iroquois diet. A primary responsibility and Iroquois tradition became caring for our
Three Sisters – Corn, Beans, and Squash. Hundreds of acres of these three vegetables
were planted together, nourished, and then harvested by Iroquois women in the original
territory, which is now the State of New York.
Corn is the oldest sister and stands tall
in the center. Beans climb up Corn to
bind them together, add stability, and to
fertilize the soil by converting the sun’s
energy into rich nitrogen that grows in
her roots and is much needed by Corn.
Squash grows over their mounded soil to
protect her sisters from weeds, while also
shading the soil to keep it cool and moist
during dry years. A variety of Iroquois
stories are told by the elders about The
Three Sisters that would never be apart
from each other, and should always be
planted together, eaten together, and
celebrated together.
Six Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Nations,
the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida,
Mohawk, and Tuscarora, created the
original concept of “companion plant-
ing”. Today, the Oneida Nation of Wis-
consin-Green Bay’s Tsyunhehkwa Farm
is a leader in North America for self
sustainability having a Certified Organ-
ic Agricultural Program for white flint
corn, pumpkin, fruits, vegetables, herbs,
hay and pasture, along with free range
poultry and fresh eggs. Nutritionally,
corn provides us with vitamin C, calci-
um, iron, potassium, and carbohydrates
for energy; beans provide us with calci-
“Corn” “Beans” “Squash” hand wrought copper masks (set of 3); each mask 22” tall
“Three Sisters” outdoor garden sculpture
(6 ft. tall), copper welded in hard silver
and patinated.
1,2,3,4,5 7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,...20
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