Corn Beans Squash
(Beans from Veg Kitchen, Squash from California Condor)
For many Indigenous People in the Americas, this triad is called the Three Sisters:
Corn, or Maize, Beans and Squash.
Although this food trinity has a variety of names among Native People, these three staples remain the heart of
most Indigenous diets.
An interesting fact about this Food Trio is that they are all interdependent on one another.
Beans grow up the Corn stalks and add the nutrients (Nitrogen) to the soil that the others need to grow.
Squash is planted in between them to keep weeds out.
All three of these foods originally came from the Indigenous People of Mexico, Central and South America,
then slowly made their way North to our Native People.
A press release announcing recent winners from the Kellogg Foundation:
A new page about what makes us who we are:
A Brief History of American Native Food
American Natives were reasonably healthy before the European Invasions.
They lived on the land and in some areas cultivated rich soils and grew crops.
For the Bison hunting Nations that were always on the move, their diets were mixtures of the meat that they
hunted and the plants, berries and fruits that were found everywhere that they went.
This country was a bountiful place hundreds of years ago and Native people survived quite nicely.
After the Invasions, everything changed and none of it was good for Natives.
Those who were sent to Reservations starved many times.
Food meant for them often ended up in the hands of unscrupulous agents, who dispersed the supplies to
themselves, their families and friends.
Or just outright sold it for profit.
The Native people in the East were the first to be affected by the European outsiders and their gluttony.
The vast natural and developed Native food supplies were quickly devoured by the new people.
Although saved from starvation by the generosity of Natives, these greedy ones were convinced that this
wondrous new land was theirs to take and use as they pleased, calling it their Manifest Destiny.
When the food supplies in the East began running out, the invaders started moving West.
All across the country, the long Wagon Trains of Pioneers wiped out the natural food sources along the way.
Like Locust, they decimated everything in their path.
As for farming among Native Nations, it became quite difficult to grow or hunt just ahead of oncoming settlers or
In the Great Plains, the Natives who refused to go to Reservations were a little better off, for a while.
But, once the Railroads were in place and Buffalo Bill Cody and others killed off nearly the entire Bison
population, there was little food left for the Plains People.
Until the land and Gold Rushes of the 1800’s, most Native People in the far West and Northwest still had adequate natural food sources.
*A personal note*
My People, the Shawnee, were considered very good farmers.
When they arrived at the Reservation in Kansas, the Governor remarked that the Shawnee were the best
farmers that he had ever seen.
What he didn’t know was that before they were shipped off to Kansas, the Shawnee from the Ohio Valley area
had learned many techniques from the local Amish farmers who admired them and even hid many of them after
the great Shawnee leader Tecumseh was killed.
American Native Food Today
Today, American Natives need only travel to their nearest grocery store to find an abundance of food.
Many Natives do still grow some of their own food, raising geographically relevant crops that help to
sustain their people through the hard times.
Corn, beans and squash are still grown by many Nations, however, very few Native people are successful
commercial farmers as they lack the investment capital to get started.
**Your responses to this statement are quite encouraging,
but please do contact the Tribal Nations directly if you
are interested in investing in Native Farming**
Southwestern Nations, like the Navajo and Hopis use the Ancient irrigation methods of their
Ancestors to grow a colorful collection of corn.
These Natives harvest cactus, plant vegetables and chilies and raise sheep which are rarely eaten, but provide
the abundance of wool used for their beautiful woven rugs.
Historically, California Natives were unlike most others, they did not grow much of anything to eat, they didn’t
have to, it was already there, all they had to do was take it.
The insulting title of “diggers” was given to these Natives, by outsiders who observed them frequently digging
in the dirt.
The state was rich in nutritious wild roots, bulbs and insects and thousands of California Natives lived very well
on the multitude of fruits, Wild Game, Nuts, Roots and Berries.
Today, with little good land left to raise crops, many Tribes have built Casinos instead to help support their
Several Southern Nations like the Seminoles of Florida, and the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, have Casinos,
raise Cattle and grow a variety of food crops.
Some Tribes in Minnesota harvest wild rice and other related food products both to share with their own people
and also to sell.
Natives in Northern Plains States, like North and South Dakota, Idaho and Montana are raising cattle, while
trying to forge a new future for their children by tapping into the Renewable Energy market with Wind Turbines
and Solar Power.
The Northwest Nations of Washington and Oregon raise Salmon and grow Berries and Grapes and also have
Corn, Maple Syrup and wonderful varieties of Apples, Pears, Grapes, Berries, including an abundance of
Cranberries in Massachusetts.
Many Tribes also grow tobacco and cotton, but as they are not food, they were not counted among the Native
Native Owned Food Businesses
If you are an American Native or Nation with a food business,
please send me your information to be listed on this page:
tahtonka at centurylink.net
The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe of South Dakota.
White Earth Reservation of Minnesota offers a variety of wild rice products, maple syrup, organic coffee, jams and jellies and many non food products.
The Skeet Family of Gallup, New Mexico sell Native American Traditional Foods.
The Ojibwa people of Red Lake Minnesota who not only grow wild rice, but now ship it all over the world.
Disclaimer * tahtonka.com has no personal knowledge nor connection to any of these businesses.*
American Native Food Web Sites:
A Pyramid of American Native foods.
How the Plains People provided food for themselves.
Indian Health Services
American Native Recipes