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Honoring Tradition

Syracuse University hosted the Third Annual Three Sisters Sovereignty Garden Planting May 6 at Pete’s Giving Garden, located on South Campus.

The planting and dedication were the culmination of the graduate practicum of Ethan Tyo ’17, G’23, a master’s degree student in food studies in Falk College. In addition to providing fresh food for the University’s food pantries in Hendricks Chapel and on South Campus, Pete’s Giving Garden supports new ways of teaching and learning.

Tyo recognized an opportunity to grow food not only in a sustainable manner, but in a way that honors the traditions and culture of the Onondaga Nation, firekeepers of the Haudenosaunee, the Indigenous people on whose ancestral lands Syracuse University now stands. “The ‘three sisters’–corn, beans and squash—are foundational foods that gave rise to the strength and resilience of the Haudenosaunee people. Thousands of years of traditional ecological knowledge and expertise have cultivated our relationship to the land and our survival,” says Tyo. “Returning these seeds to our ancestral lands is a step towards acknowledging that relationship and the contributions that Indigenous peoples have made throughout history.”

The dedication focused on the May planting moon and created what is known as a traditional “Three Sisters garden,” which will incorporate the traditional seeds and methods of the Onondaga Nation using the knowledge and wisdom of the Onondaga Nation Seed Keepers. The event included a presentation on seed sovereignty, revitalizing Indigenous foods and the impact that climate change has on Haudenosaunee ways of being. It also acknowledged the return of traditional seeds to the ancestral land of the Onondaga Nation, giving Haudenosaunee students the chance to learn and practice cultural revitalization while in an academic setting.

This event was a collaboration between the Onondaga Nation Seed Keepers, Hendricks Chapel, Energy Systems and Sustainability Management, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Native Student Program, the Falk College Department of Nutrition and Food Studies and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.