The Three Sisters

An Iroquois legend tells of three sisters who sprouted from the body of Sky Woman’s daughter, granting the gift of agriculture to the tribes.

The sisters were all different in appearance and in personality. They lived together and helped each other grow and be strong.

  • Corn, or maize, is the oldest sister. She stands tall in the center and provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles.
  • Squash is the next sister. She grows over the mound, protecting her sisters from weeds and shades the soil from the sun with her leaves, keeping it cool and moist.
  • Beans are the third sister. She climbs through squash and then up the corn stalk to bind all together as she reaches for the sun

Each crop also complements the others in nutritional value:

  • Maize is high in calories, but relatively low in protein and is missing two critical amino acids.
  • Bean, on the other hand, is a rich source of protein, and has an amino acid that complements maize.
  • Eating the two crops together provides a complete array of amino acids.
  • Squash is high in calories, vitamins, and minerals, and its seeds are a good source of protein and oil.

Each of these crops does better when planted together than when planted on their own. They each contribute a different characteristics that helps all three of them grow and be strong.

The Three Sisters teaches us:

  1. Everyone has something to offer.
  2. Everyone brings something different to the table.
  3. There is strength in diversity.


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