The Haudenosaunee and Lenape are the indigenous peoples of this land. The plants in this bed are native to the New York area. The Haudenosaunee originally inhabited upstate New York while the Lenape lived in Manahatta (now called Manhattan) and the surrounding areas. The Haudenosaunee have been called the Iroquois Confederacy by the French and the League of Five Nations by the English. Their proper name is the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Haudenosaunee means people of the longhouse. Haudenosaunee and Lenape cultures, like all cultures, are dynamic and have changed over time.

The Munsee Lenape, Wappinger, and Schaghticoke, the indigenous people of this area, have resided here for centuries, growing and changing with the land around them. While some food was foraged or hunted, most North American tribes also domesticated and grew a combination of plants known as the Three Sisters, which sustained thousands of peoples for hundreds of generations. The Haudenosaunee, the people of modern upstate New York, consider the Three Sisters to be a divine gift, and the way they work together transcends the simple act of planting a seed.

The Three Sisters are corn, bean and squash. The name “Three Sisters” draws on many different legends, but some parts remain consistent; they support the growth and lives of one another. From an agricultural standpoint, each plant helps the others survive and thrive: Corn, the oldest sister, acts as a trellis for the middle sister, beans. The youngest sister, squash, protects the other sisters with its hairy leaves from predators while simultaneously helping keep the ground moist for the water-loving corn. Beans, like all legumes, have small nodules on their roots filled with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and ensure the soil is healthy for all three to thrive. Utilizing the corn, beans, and squash together in the garden draws upon centuries of indigenous agricultural traditions and expertise.