A Native American Tale
Growing the Three Sisters, corn, beans & squash, is an ancient practice that seems to have originated among the Huron-Wyandot and Mohawk Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) peoples and is now widespread among North American Indian tribes.
The legend of “Three Sisters” originated when a woman of medicine who could no longer bear the fighting among her three daughters asked the Creator to help her find a way to get them to stop. That night she had a dream, and in it each sister was a different seed. The first sister was corn, she grew tall and strong and helped the second sister, bean, by allowing her vines to climb up her stalk. In return, bean gave corn the nutrients she needs to grow. Squash was the third sister and she grew low to the ground, throughout the corn field. Her large leaves helped to keep the weeds under control and the soil moist.
In her dream, the mother planted all of them in one mound in just the way they would have lived at home and told them that in order to grow and thrive, they would need to be different but dependent upon each other. They needed to see that each was special and each had great things to offer on her own and with the others. The next morning while cooking breakfast, she cooked each daughter an egg, but each was different: one hard-boiled, one scrambled, and one over-easy. She told her daughters of her dream and said to them,
“You are like these eggs. Each is still an egg but with different textures and flavors. Each of you has a special place in the world and in my heart.” The daughters started to cry and hugged each other, because now they would celebrate their differences and love one another more because of them. From that day on, Native people have planted the three crops together.
Another Version of the Same Legend
A long time ago, three sisters lived together in a field. These sisters were quite different from one another in their height and in the way they carried themselves. The little sister was so young and round that she could only crawl at first, and she was dressed in green. The second sister wore a bright, sunshine yellow dress, and she would spend many an hour reading by herself, sitting in the sun with the soft wind blowing against her face. The third was the eldest sister, standing always very straight and tall above the other sisters, looking for danger and warning her sisters. She wore a pale green shawl and had long, dirty-yellow hair. There was one way the sisters were all alike, though. They loved each other dearly, and they always stayed together. This made them very strong.
One day a strange bird came to the field: a crow. He talked to the horses and other animals, and this caught the attention of the sisters. Late that summer, the youngest and smallest sister disappeared. Her sisters were sad. Again the crow came to the field to gather reeds at the water’s edge. The sisters who were left watched his trail as he was leaving, and that night the second sister, the one in the yellow dress, disappeared. Now the eldest sister was the only one left. She continued to stand tall. When the crow saw how she missed her sisters, he brought them all back together, and they became stronger together again. The elder sister stands tall looking out for the crow to this day.