The Iroquois Legend of the Three Sisters
The term “Three Sisters” emerged from the Iroquois creation myth. It was said that the earth began when “Sky Woman” who lived in the upper world peered through a hole in the sky and fell through to an endless sea. The animals saw her coming, so they took the soil from the bottom of the sea and spread it onto the back of a giant turtle to provide a safe place for her to land. This “Turtle Island” is now what we call North America.
Sky woman had become pregnant before she fell. When she landed, she gave birth to a daughter. When the daughter grew into a young woman, she also became pregnant (by the West wind). She died while giving birth to twin boys. Sky Woman buried her daughter in the “new earth.” From her grave grew three sacred plants—corn, beans, and squash. These plants provided food for her sons, and later, for all of humanity. These special gifts ensured the survival of the Iroquois people. Source: Erney, Diana. 1996. Long live the Three Sisters. Organic Gardening. November.p.37-40
Sister Corn, the older sister, offers the beans needed support. She provides a natural pole for bean vines to climb. Varieties Include: Golden Bantam, Reids Yellow Dent
Sister Bean, the giving sister, fix nitrogen into the soil for the benefit of all three plants. As she climbs the corn she also helps stabilize the stalks to prevent them from blowing over in the wind. Varieties Include: Pinto, Kentucky Wonder Pole
Sister Squash, the protective sister, with her large leaves acting like a living mulch to protect the soil and help retain moisture. Spiny varieties also help deter predators from the Corn and Beans. Varieties Include: Sugar Pie Pumpkin, Waltham Butternut
Traditionally drying varieties were chosen to sustain the native people through the winter. Together the three sisters provide sustainable soil fertility and a healthy diet!