The Three Sisters Parable: Preserving Native American Tradition
The Three Sisters parable is near and dear to my soul. I have a significant, yet undetermined, blood quantum hailing from Mvskoke and, possibly, Pawnee tribes. My maternal uncle is on the board of elders for the local Muscogee here in the Florida panhandle. However, I’m still investigating my paternal bloodline and, where Native American roots are involved, that is difficult terrain. I hope to learn more about my heritage.
The Three Sisters story, told differently by each tribe, tells of three sisters who learn to depend on each other – that the other’s weakness was their strength. The Southeastern tribes usually share a version like this:
A woman had three daughters who continuously fought. She prayed and had a dream one night. Each of her daughters represented a different seed. She planted them all in the mound together, and they grew. One became squash. One daughter became beans. The third daughter grew into corn.
Beans could only crawl on her belly on the ground. Corn grew tall, but her roots were susceptible to the sun. Squash was squat and sturdy. Since they grew together in the same mound, beans entwined with corn and grew up her tall stalks. Squash shaded the roots of both plants. The mother shared her dream with the girls the following morning, and the girls got the message: You need each other. You are stronger when you work together.
While there is a definite moral to the story, Native Americans used this parable to remind their children how to grow these three staples which, to this day, are known as the Three Sisters.
Traditionally, Three Sisters Soup (or stew) uses winter squash and makes an appearance on Thanksgiving dinner tables and fall corn festivals. However, I adore summer bounties. I also use more of southwest flavor combination (and chayote originates from Mexico and South America), so it’s not technically how my people probably would have prepared it, but the soul of the vegetable combination still resonates with me.
For a brief time, a unique variety of summer vegetables pop-up in the farmer’s markets. During the warmer months, grocery store shelves beckon with fresh, sweet corn and unusual varieties of squash.
This soup recipe capitalizes on chayote, a rather bizarre looking squash. It’s small, green, and resembles a pear. The chayote, like most summer squash, bears a mild flavor and combines well in many dishes. The seed is edible, but you can discard it if you prefer.
I found mine, individually wrapped in plastic bags, at Publix on the very top shelf above the zucchinis. However, if you cannot locate it, and asking the produce manager bears no fruit (grin), feel free to substitute any other summer squash such as yellow squash or zucchini.
This hearty soup offers a bounty of protein, lots of fiber, and a host of nutrients. It’s also delicious and beautifully colored.
We enjoy hosting parties and my husband and I are both avid gamers. You can find me on PS4 as SunshineFlaGirl. We also play tabletop RPGs and eurogames.