Being Thankful for Each Other: The Story of the Three Sisters

When we sit down to share a meal with loved ones this Thursday, many of us will take a moment of gratitude. We will recognize how those sitting next to us and across from us support us. We will nourish ourselves with food made by someone else, a gift for our bodies. The point of Thanksgiving and most other holidays for the majority of people is that we gather together. Each one of us relies on those around us; we live in communities of people, plants, animals, rocks, and all of the other beings in this world.

The Iroquois confederacy, consisting of the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca nations, is indigenous to northeastern North America. According to traditional Iroquois beliefs, the three crops of corn, beans, and squash are watched over by three sister spirits who help each other flourish. These crops have a symbiotic relationship; bean vines scale the length of the corn’s stalks, the beans fix nitrogen into the soil, which acts as fertilizer for the corn and squash, and the squash plant stays low on the ground, its large leaves shading the soil to keep in the moisture and prevent weeds. This crop combination not only grows better as a collective, but it also contains a variety of nutrients that provide a well-rounded diet.

The three sisters serve as a reminder to how each of us plays a unique and essential role in our communities. Here at Farm 2 Facts, we support farmers markets through conducting research, finding grants, and providing marketing services. These farmers markets connect farmers to customers for their products. The farmers grow nutritious produce and livestock to feed people. No one unit would be as successful alone; we need each other.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist, author, and member of the Potawatomi nation wrote in her inspiring book, Braiding Sweetgrass, that “all flourishing is mutual”. When we uphold the relationship between the land and the ones who work it, between those who work the land and those who eat what the land offers, and all of the other necessary connections- we all prosper.