The Three Sisters are a natural choice as I plan and plant this food garden because they’re native to the region. They are of this place; people have cultivated them in this climate for centuries, and they’ve thrived in spite of desert droughts and frigid winters and dirt that seems dead. Year by year by year, corn, beans, and squash developed an ancient and profound relationship with this sweep of earth and sky. Some say it’s a relationship that goes beyond mere evolutionary adaptation.
See, for instance, Lois Ellen Frank’s introduction to Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, which opens with these words:
Native Americans have lived on this land since before history’s written records, far beyond any living memory. The story of the people in the Southwest and the story of this place is one story. One cannot think of this place and not think of its people. Indigenous people of the Southwest are as diverse as the land they live on. Nevertheless, they share the belief that food is important beyond physical sustenance. The acts of hunting, growing, gathering, cooking, and eating take on a spiritual aspect akin to prayer. The relationship between the land and its people is sacred.
There it is again: sacred. Sacred.