Three Sisters Garden

(Onkwawen Tkaienthohseron “Our Garden” The Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres)

According to Iroquois tradition, corn, beans and squash are three inseparable sisters who only grow and thrive together. This method of inter-planting corn, beans and squash in the same mounds, widespread among Native American farming societies, is a sophisticated, sustainable system that provided long-term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations.

Growing a Three Sisters garden is a wonderful way to feel more connected to the history of this land, regardless of our ancestry. Corn, beans and squash were among the first important crops domesticated by ancient Mesoamerican societies. Corn was the primary crop, providing more calories or energy per acre than any other. According to Three Sister tradition, corn must grow in a community with other crops, rather than on its own – it needs the beneficial company and aide from its companions.

The Haudenosaunee believe corn, beans and squash, are precious gifts from the Great Spirit, each watched over by one of the three sisters’ spirits, called Deohako, or “Our Sustainers”. The planting season is marked by ceremonies to honour them, and a festival commemorates the first harvest of green corn on the cob. By retelling the stories and performing annual rituals, knowledge of growing, using and preserving the Three Sisters was passed down through generations.

For more information on the Three Sisters Garden please visit our Resource Page (Point 1a)