Thanksgiving, Squanto and the Three Sisters Printable November 11 2010

Teachers, Here is a free The Three Sisters: Corn, Beans and Squash printable to supplement your lesson.

Students will learn the Three Sisters Method of planting taught by Tisquantum (the pilgrims called him Squanto), who was born in the Wampanoag community of Patuxet, a village of about two thousand inhabitants on present-day Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts.

Squanto Helped the Pilgrims

The Mayflower landed in America on December 26, 1620. The pilgrims had settled in the location of Squanto's village. Many pilgrims were sick and some had died. The winters were harsh, and they did not have adequate food or shelter.  Squanto was a wise and well-traveled Native American man, who had learned English. Squanto's tribe had lived on the location that the pilgrims had settled on. However, Squanto's tribe had been killed by a plague before the pilgrims arrived. Squanto knew English, so he was able to teach the pilgrims how to fish, hunt, gather, farm and save food in order to survive the harsh winters in America.

The Three Sisters (corn, beans and squash)

One of the important farming skills Squanto taught the pilgrims was the Three Sisters Method, which is an effective technique used to plant corn, beans and squash. Corn is the strong and tall sister. She helps her sister, the bean, by allowing her to grow up her stalk. Bean gives corn the nutrients she needs to grow healthy. Squash is the third sister. Her large leaves help keep the soil moist and prevent weeds from growing.

Squanto's Kindness and Forgiveness

Squanto was a kind and forgiving man, who had endured being a slave and the grief of losing his tribe to a plague. He chose to use his wisdom,  learned through his tribe's tradition, with the pilgrims. By retelling the stories and performing annual rituals, Native Americans passed down the wisdom of growing the Three Sisters through generations. They believe that corn, beans and squash are gifts from the Great Spirit. Each is watched over by one of three sisters spirits, called the De-o-ha-ko, “Our Sustainers". Ceremonies honor the sisters during the planting season, and festival commemorates the first harvest of green corn on the cob.

In a way, Squanto was like the corn, the strong sister. He opened his heart to the pilgrims and they needed him, as the beans needs the corn to wind up her stalk towards the sun. The third sister, squash, prevents weeds from destroying the corn and beans. Squanto's forgiveness and kindness towards the pilgrims help prevent strife (weeds) from growing in the hearts of the Native Americans and pilgrims, who had lived together for 50 years in peace.

Recommended Reading about Squanto

Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac, Illustrated by Greg Shed

Squanto: A Friend to the Pilgrims by Carol Ghiglieri, Illustrated by Cheryl Kirk Noll

Thanksgiving Reading

Celebrating Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks by Joel Kupperstein - This reader focuses on the special meaning and traditions associated with Thanksgiving. Students will gain an understanding of why we give thanks for family, friends, and the traditional holiday feast.