Re: three sis

karl h schwerin (schwerin@UNM.EDU)
Fri, 29 Sep 1995 15:17:22 -0600

On Wed, 27 Sep 1995, Ruby Rohrlich wrote:

> I haven't read Lewis Henry Morgan's League of the Iroquois for a long
> time, but believe he discussed the "three sisters" in this book. Ruby
> Rohrlich
> On Wed, 27 Sep 1995, Morty Kessel wrote:
> > Can any lurkers direct me to a source for the use of the term "three
> > sisters" when referring to the three staples of Mesoamerican diet;
> > corn, beans and squash?
> >
> > |~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|
> > | Morton H. Kessel | InterNet: |
> > | Department of Anthropology | BitNet: Kessel@FAUVAX |
> > | Florida Atlantic University| SoBell: 407/367-3230 |
> > | Boca Raton, FL 33431-0991 | Fax: 407/367-2744 |
> > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> >
on pp. 370-374 of *League of the Iroquois* Morgan goes into quite a paean
about "This noble grain" corn, "destined, eventually, to become one of the
staple articles of human consumption." But there is no mention of beans
or squash. In *Ancient Society* Chap. 2. "Arts of Subsistence" he says
(p. 26) "In the Western hemisphere, the aborigines were enabled to
advance generally into the Lower Status of barbarism, and a prition of
them into the Middle Status, without domestic animals, excepting the
llama in Peru, and upon a single cereal, maize, with the adjuncts of the
bean, squash, and tobacco, and in some areas, cacao, cotton and

I don't get any impression from these statements that he particularly
identified the American grade-school triumvirate of corn-beans-squash as
something distinctive. In fact, in Mesoamerica, it would more properly
be corn-beans-chile, with pulque (agave product) as a significant
supplement. Squash was quite secondary as a Mesoamerican crop maybe as
improtant as avocados.

Karl Schwerin SnailMail: Dept. of Anthropology
Univ. of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131

Much charitable endeavor is motivated by an unconscious
desire to peer into lives that one is glad to be unable
to share. . . . . Edward Sapir