Three Sisters (agriculture)

The Three Sisters are the three main agricultural crops of various Native American groups in North America: winter squash, maize (corn), and climbing beans (typically tepary beans or common beans). Originating in Mexico, these three crops were carried northward, up the river valleys over generations of time, far afield to the Mandan and Iroquois who, among others, used these "Three Sisters" as trade goods.

In a technique known as companion planting the three crops are planted close together. Flat-topped mounds of soil are built for each cluster of crops.[1] Each mound is about 30 cm (12 in) high and 50 cm (20 in) wide, and several maize seeds are planted close together in the center of each mound. In parts of the Atlantic Northeast, rotten fish or eels are buried in the mound with the maize seeds, to act as additional fertilizer where the soil is poor.[2] When the maize is 15 cm (6 inches) tall, beans and squash are planted around the maize, alternating between the two kinds of seeds. The process to develop this agricultural knowledge took place over 5,000–6,500 years. Squash was domesticated first, with maize second and then beans being domesticated.[3][4] Squash was first domesticated 8,000–10,000 years ago.[5][6]

The three crops benefit from each other. The maize provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other plants use, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, helping prevent the establishment of weeds. The squash leaves also act as a "living mulch", creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil, and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests. Corn, beans, and squash contain complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and all nine essential amino acids, allowing most Native American tribes to thrive on a plant-based diet.[7]

Native Americans throughout North America are known for growing variations of Three Sisters gardens.[8] The milpas of Mesoamerica are farms or gardens that employ companion planting on a larger scale.[9] The Ancestral Puebloans are known for adopting this garden design in a drier environment. The Tewa and other peoples of the Southwestern United States often included a "fourth Sister", Rocky Mountain bee plant (Cleome serrulata), which attracts bees to help pollinate the beans and squash.[10]

The Three Sisters planting method is featured on the reverse of the 2009 US Sacagawea dollar.[11]

2009NativeAmericanRev
Three Sisters as featured on the reverse of the 2009 Native American U.S. dollar coin

Cahokian, Mississippian and Mvskoke culture

Corn, squash and beans were planted ca. 800 AD in the largest Native American city north of the Rio Grande known as Cahokia, in what is now known as the US state of Illinois, across the river from St Louis, Missouri. The Three Sisters crops were responsible for the surplus food that created an expanded population throughout the extended Mississippi River valley and tributaries, creating the Mississippian and Mvskoke cultures that flourished from ca. 800 ce to ca. 1600 when physical contact with Spanish explorers brought European disease, death, and cultural collapse.

Iroquois culture

Among the Haudenosaunee, notably the Seneca, women were responsible for crop cultivation, including the 'Three Sisters'. Men had more cause to travel for extended periods of time, such as for hunting expeditions or diplomatic missions. However, men took part in the initial preparation for the planting of the 'Three Sisters' by clearing the planting ground. After a sufficient area of soil was prepared, groups of women (related to each other) took on all the planting, weeding, and harvesting.[12]

Gallery

Cucurbita moschata Butternut 2012 G2

Butternut squash, a type of winter squash.

See also

References

  1. ^ Mt. Pleasant, Jane (2006). "38". In John E. Staller; Robert H. Tykot; Bruce F. Benz (eds.). The science behind the Three Sisters mound system: An agronomic assessment of an indigenous agricultural system in the northeast. Histories of Maize: Multidisciplinary approaches to the prehistory, linguistics, biogeography, domestication, and evolution of maize. Amsterdam: Academic Press. pp. 529–537. ISBN 978-1-5987-4496-5.
  2. ^ Vivian, John (February–March 2001). "The Three Sisters". Mother Earth News. Retrieved September 18, 2013.
  3. ^ Landon, Amanda J. (2008). "The "How" of the Three Sisters: The Origins of Agriculture in Mesoamerica and the Human Niche". Nebraska Anthropologist. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska-Lincoln: 110–124.
  4. ^ Bushnell, G. H. S. (1976). "The Beginning and Growth of Agriculture in Mexico". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. London: Royal Society of London. 275 (936): 117–120. doi:10.1098/rstb.1976.0074.
  5. ^ Smith, Bruce D. (May 1997). "The Initial Domestication of Cucurbita pepo in the Americas 10,000 Years Ago". Science. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science. 276 (5314): 932–934. doi:10.1126/science.276.5314.932.
  6. ^ "Cucurbitaceae--Fruits for Peons, Pilgrims, and Pharaohs". University of California at Los Angeles. Archived from the original on October 16, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  7. ^ McDougall, John (2002). "Misinformation on Plant Proteins". Circulation. Dallas, Tx: American Heart Association. 106 (20): e148. doi:10.1161/01.cir.0000042900.87320.d0. PMID 12427669.
  8. ^ Wilson, Gilbert (1917). Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians: An Indian Interpretation. Gloucestershire: Dodo Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-1409942337.
  9. ^ Mann, Charles (2005). 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 220–221. ISBN 978-1-4000-3205-1.
  10. ^ Hemenway, Toby (2000). Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing. p. 149. ISBN 978-1-890132-52-1.
  11. ^ "2009 Native American $1 Coin". United States Mint. Retrieved September 18, 2013.
  12. ^ Bilharz, Joy (2002). The Allegany Senecas and Kinzua Dam: forced relocation through two generations. Lincoln, Neb. Chesham: University of Nebraska Press Combined Academic. p. 8. ISBN 9780803262034.

External links

Acuragna, California

Acuragna is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California. Its precise location is unknown.

Ahapchingas, California

Ahapchingas is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California. It was located between Los Angeles and San Juan Capistrano; its precise location is unknown.

Anzick Clovis burial

The Anzick Site (24PA506) in Park County, Montana, United States, is the only known Clovis burial site in the New World.

Brewster Site

The Brewster Site is an archaeological site associated with a village of the Mill Creek culture near Cherokee, Iowa, United States. Among the items found here are ceremonial or decorative items manufactured from birds. Pottery that has been tempered with crushed granite, sand, and pulverized clamshell has also been found. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Cucamonga (former settlement), California

Cucamonga (also, Coco Mongo, Cucamungabit, and Cucomogna) is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California.Its precise location is unknown but was probably within the San Bernardino Valley, within the bounds of what became the Rancho Cucamonga.

El Fin del Mundo

El Fin del Mundo (Spanish: 'End of the World') is an ancient Pleistocene site in northwestern Sonora, Mexico. It features Clovis culture period occupation dating around 13,390 calibrated years BP. It was discovered during a 2007 survey.

This is the oldest Clovis site in North America. There's also the Aubrey site in Denton County, Texas, which produced a radiocarbon date that is almost identical.

Harasgna, California

Harasgna is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California.Its precise location is unknown.

Honmoyausha, California

Honmoyausha is a former Chumashan settlement in Los Angeles County, California.It was located at El Barranco near San Pedro Bay - modern-day San Pedro.

Isanthcogna, California

Isanthcogna is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California.It was located at Mission Vieja, near Rancho San Pascual and Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, in the San Gabriel Valley.

La Brea Woman

La Brea Woman is the name for the only human whose remains have ever been found in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. The remains, first discovered in the pits in 1914, were the partial skeleton of a woman At around 18-25 years of age at death, she has been dated at 10,220–10,250 cal yr BP.

Leanderthal Lady

Leanderthal Lady, discovered in January 1983, is the skeletal remains of a prehistoric woman found at the Wilson-Leonard Brushy Creek Site (an ancient Native American campsite) in the city of Cedar Park, Texas, by the Texas Department of Transportation. The remains were also alternatively labeled "Leanne". Both names were inspired by the proximity of the site to the town of Leander, to the north.

Carbon dating and stratigraphic analysis showed the remains to be 10,000 to 13,000 years old. The skeleton is of a 5 feet 3 inches (1.60 m) tall female who was approximately eighteen to thirty years old at the time of death. The find was significant as one of the oldest and most complete human skeleton finds in North America.

Maugna, California

Maugna is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement, or ranchería, in Los Angeles County, California.It was located at Rancho Los Feliz (Rancho Felis), present day Hollywood.

Nacaugna, California

Nacaugna is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California. It was located at Rancho Santa Gertrudes - Carpenter's Ranch, the Lemuel Carpenter ranch in present-day Downey, California.

Okowvinjha, California

Okowvinjha is a former Tongva (Fernandeño) Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California.It was located near the Mission San Fernando Rey de España in the San Fernando Valley.

Pubugna, California

Pubugna is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California.It was located at Rancho Los Alamitos, in present-day Long Beach, California.The significant Puvunga archaeological site is located in this area.

Quapa, California

Quapa is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California.Its precise location is unknown.

Sisitcanogna, California

Sisitcanogna is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California.It was located at 'Pear Orchard' in the San Gabriel Valley, possibly in the northeast Pasadena area.

Sonagna, California

Sonagna is a former Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American settlement in Los Angeles County, California.It was located at White's Ranch.

Tuyunga, California

Tuyunga is a former Tongva (Fernandeño) settlement in Los Angeles County, California.It was located near the original Los Encinos Rancho that became the Mission San Fernando Rey de España and near Sunland, in the San Fernando Valley.The name survives in the Tujunga community of Los Angeles.

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