The university will plant a Three Sisters garden space on May 4


Known as the Three Sisters, corn, beans and squash are the staple foods of the Haudenosaunee, the indigenous people of New York State. But they are more than food; plants are also sacred and included in the Haudenosaunee creation story.

Binghamton University, in partnership with the Onondaga Nation, is creating its own Three Sisters Garden that will honor the Indigenous peoples who call this land their ancestral home. The Science I courtyard site currently houses a vegetable garden planted years ago by the late Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Richard Andrus.

The project was created in consultation with Angela Ferguson, of the Eel Clan of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, who oversees the Onondaga Nation farm, located just outside their territory in central New York. The 13-acre farm has produced enough food to feed the Onondaga Nation for five years, noted assistant professor of anthropology BrieAnna Langlie, who is organizing the Binghamton side efforts in conjunction with Barrett Brenton, the associate at the faculty engagement for the Center for Civic Engagement. .

“She will hand-select sacred varieties of seeds that are appropriate here; they belong to the Tuscarora Nation, who once inhabited this space just around Binghamton when they joined the Haudenosaunee Confederacy,” Langlie said of Ferguson.

Ferguson and Sarah Patterson of the Onondaga Nation Farm, Ethan Tyo (Akwsasne Mohawk) and other Onondaga Nation leaders will be on campus at 10 a.m. May 4 in Fine Arts Room 258 to participate in a table round. This will be followed by a traditional Haudenosaunee blessing of thanksgiving for the land and planting of the Three Sisters at 11:15 a.m. in the Science I yard. Members of the Onondaga Nation will return this fall to harvest and to help the campus community to prepare a traditional meal to share.

The Three Sisters are traditionally planted together. Beans help fix nitrogen in the soil and wrap around corn stalks, making a handy trellis. Corn thrives on the nitrogen provided by beans, and squash vines provide a dense thicket that crowds out weeds and retains soil moisture.

“They are this perfect complement to each other, planted in this traditional way, where they are very low maintenance and maintenance. And they create a kind of soil harmony, so to speak, because of this biological symbiosis,” Langlie said. “There is an important biology lesson to be learned from Indigenous knowledge.

Five mounds, each representing a Haudenosaunee nation, will surround a sixth central mound, Brenton said. Centrally located, the Onondaga are traditionally known as the central fire keepers of the Haudenosaunee Six Nation Confederacy.

Beyond land recognition

The garden will mark the first collaboration between Haudenosaunee and Binghamton faculty and students on something that not only explicitly acknowledges ancestral relationships with the land, but what is truly special about Haudenosaunee historical and contemporary relationships with this particular land, said anthropology professor Joshua Réno.

Langlie teaches a course on traditional agriculture and Brenton on indigenous knowledge systems; both classes have consulted with Ferguson on projects in the past, and she has also given a talk sponsored by the Sustainable Communities Transdisciplinary Area of ​​Excellence. Brenton and Langlie approached her about bringing a Three Sisters garden to Binghamton after hearing about a similar garden she helped establish at Syracuse University.

Other participants in the project include Sean Cummings of Binghamton Acres University, Plant Curator Joshua DeMarree of EW Heier Teaching and Research Greenhouses, Assistant Professor of History Aleksandar Shopov, Professor of Anthropology and Professor collegiate D. Andrew Merriwether of College-in-the-Woods. , Martin LaRocca of physical facilities, the environmental studies program, the departments of geological sciences and anthropology, and the center for civic engagement. Three of Langlie’s graduate students are also implicated: Katherine Nusbaum, Cinthia Campos and Brooke Maybee.

The garden will be maintained by volunteers during the summer months. Over the course of the academic year, several classes will be involved with the site, from introductory anthropology classes to Shopov’s history of urban gardening, to a class designated Community Engaged Learning. It will also be an opportunity for College-in-the-Woods residents to build a relationship with the Indigenous peoples whose buildings are named after.

The garden is rooted in this shared relationship with the indigenous peoples of the region, a relationship that goes beyond the recognition of the land in people’s electronic signatures. Such one-line acknowledgments are not the same as establishing a true partnership with Indigenous communities, Langlie stressed.

By establishing this partnership, the garden also symbolizes respect for the Dutch settlers’ original treaty with the Haudenosaunee, dating from 1613. This treaty was recorded by the Two Wampum belt, in which two rows of purple seashells symbolize ships traveling side by side. – the Haudenosaunee canoe and the Dutch ship — on an equal footing.

As a living treaty, “it meant we respected each other,” Langlie recounted. “We will live our lives together in peace on these two paths forever.”


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