Native Americans have long practiced a gardening technique of companion planting Three Sisters
together on the same mound. These Three Sisters - corn, beans and squash - supplement and complement each other.
Squash is the next sister. She grows over the mound, protecting her sisters from weeds and shades the soil from the sun with her leaves, keeping it cool and moist.
Beans are the third sister. She climbs through squash and then up corn to bind all together as she reaches for the sun. Beans help keep the soil fertile by converting the sun’s energy into nitrogen filled nodules that grow in its roots. As beans grow they use the stored nitrogen as food.
Traditional planting method: Corn and beans are planted together. Pumpkin is planted in every seventh hill. The pumpkin seeds can be planted alone, or with the corn and beans in the seventh hill.
Caring for the White Corn goes hand in hand with caring for and respecting our natural environment and all that it provides in return. It is our job to respect all that the Creator has offered, and we look at food as the natural medicines and health provided for us by the Creator. As with every year we began this season with a recognition for the Seed that we planted, and invite the Community. The tobacco burning is a traditional way to honor and recognize our White Corn, including those Community members that are planting their corn, their gardens and the responsibility that we all have in caring for our sustainers. Each year we plant between 3 - 6 acres. The life cycle of our White Corn runs from May till October. We plant and cultivate the White Corn with modern equipment (Tractor/Seeder), and in accordance with our traditional ceremonies and the lunar cycle. We celebrate the Green Corn stage in August, with our Green Corn Ceremony, and we set the date for our Community Harvest and Husking Bee based on this Stage. During the Green Corn stage it is sweeter, milkier, and yellowish in color. It is the Corn that determines the dates for Harvest and Seed selection. We hold another Tobacco Burning for the seed selection, which the Community and all personnel at tsyunhehkw^ take part. We look for traits that will provide the strongest seed for the coming years, such as stalk strength, average height, one ear per stalk, and eight kernel rows. After husking, we make more than two hundred braids, each with sixty-five ears in them, and hang them to dry in the traditional manner. The rest is placed in storage racks in our greenhouse for the Winter season. We plant our crops on a rotational basis, and are able to rotate for 3 to 4 years before we plant the White Corn in the same field. Cover crops of clover, legumes, and grasses are applied to the rest of the fields until the White Corn is scheduled to be planted again. They not only help to return nutrients to the soil, but provide hay for our cattle.
Frybread originated 144 years ago, when the United States forced Indians living in Arizona to make the "Long Walk", a 300-mile journey to relocate to New Mexico, onto land that couldn't easily support their traditional staples of vegetables and beans. To prevent the indigenous populations from starving, the government gave them canned goods, white flour, processed sugar and lard—the makings of frybread.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups warm water
Extra flour for processing
To make the dough thoroughly blend the flour with the baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl or on a suitable, clean working surface. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the warm water in the center of the well. Work the flour mixture into the water with a wooden spoon, or use your hands. Gently knead the dough into a ball and form it into a roll about 3 inches in diameter. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel to prevent drying and let the dough relax for a minimum of 10 minutes. This dough is best used within a few hours, although it may be used the next day if covered tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerated, then allowed to warm to room temperature.
To form the bread, place the dough on a cutting board. Cut the dough with a dough cutter or knife into desired thickness. This process of cutting helps keep your portion sizes consistent. Naturally, you will want to cut small pieces for appetizers (or, alternatively, if you are making sandwiches, cut them bigger). Once you have determined the size, begin cutting in the center of the roll and continue the halving process until all of the portions have been sliced. Cover the pieces of dough with a dry, clean towel while you process each piece to prevent drying. Place some flour in a shallow pan to work with when rolling out the dough. Lightly dust each piece of dough and then place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. With a rolling pin, roll each piece to about 1/4-inch thickness. Place each finished piece in the flour, turn and lightly coat each piece, gently shaking to remove the excess flour. Stack the rolled pieces on a plate as you complete the process. Cover with a dry towel until ready to cook.
To cook fry bread, place any suitable frying oil in a deep, heavy pan. The oil should be a minimum of 1 inch deep. Place pieces of bread in the oil. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook 2 to 3 minutes per side. This bread generally does not brown and should be dry on the exterior and moist in the center. Try cooking one piece first, let it cool, and taste for doneness. This will give you a better gauge of how to proceed with the balance of the bread, ensuring good results. Place the finished breads on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Serve this bread immediately after cooking.
To make grill bread, place the bread on a clean medium hot grill. When bubbles form and the dough has risen slightly, turn the bread over to finish cooking. The bread is done when the surface appears smooth and is dry to the touch. Cooking time will vary but plan on approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. This bread cooks quickly and is best when moist in the center, with a pliant crust. Some browning occurs, but generally speaking, this is a blond bread.
Frybread is popular at powwows, Native American people’s way of meeting together to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships and making new ones.