Thursday, September 10, 2009

Three Sisters and the Iroquois Village

Inside the longhouse

On the long weekend, I decided to hike around some areas of the Niagara Escarpment which are within a forty minute drive from home. Halton Region has many lovely parks and trails, including sections of the Bruce Trail, which runs for 800 km from Niagara to Tobermory, Ontario.

Crawford Lake is a meromictic lake and has layers of water which do not mix. It is on top of the Niagara Escarpment near Campbellville, Ontario and is protected by ancient cedar and hemlock forests. Researchers discovered an Iroquois village here and efforts were made to rebuild the native settlement as it looked between the 14th and 17th centuries.

After I walked around the nearby lake I wandered around the village looking at the longhouses, the simple tools and the ways in which food was prepared. Nothing was wasted from the animals killed, fish and turtles caught, crops grown, and forest growth which was collected.

The garden had been planted with the Three Sisters;- corn, beans and squash. They were traditionally planted together in mounds and were dietary staples. It was the discovery of corn pollen deep in Crawford Lake which led to the eventual excavation of this village. Everything looked clean and simple in the model longhouses and I had to use my imagination to see the smoky fires indoors and out, to smell the fresh hides and fish and garbage, and to hear the voices of the people who lived there. The kitchen was simple and made we wonder why I think I need ours remodelled.

When I got home I made a big pot of Three Sisters Soup, one of my favourite fall recipes. It could be made easily over the fire in the village. After spending an afternoon in the peaceful quiet of the escarpment, the Labour Day traffic on Highway 401 seemed like an intrusion to my state of mind.

Life here was simple, but not easy five hundred years ago.
Life here is more complex, and still not easy for many today.

But our dilemmas and complexities are often brought upon ourselves unnecessarily by the many choices we have to make in our modern society. Supper is easy when you use the only three ingredients available, much easier than wandering around a large supermarket with a thousand options marketed for our "convenience".


  1. I'd like to try growing corn, beans and squash in a mound ... but our season just isn't long enough for corn ... and we're lucky to get only a few beans off of the plants.

    Sounds like a lovely excursion. I do think we over/complicate our lives with too many things/choices (i.e. the huge selection at grocery stores ...and don't get me going on the packaging!).

  2. With the "advancement" of technology there always seems to come trade offs. Certainly in some ways one might argue that we are better off than the Iroquois of the 14th to 17th centuries but on the other hand we have lost some things, like the simplicity of life and the connection to nature and perhaps other things that if we could, we would recapture....Also too, thanks for the soup recipie.

  3. All too often we think that peace comes from things.I believe that we will be more content,like people of old,when we first have peace within.That soup sounds and looks good.Perhaps another day,it's too hot for soup today,=27C.

  4. There sure wasn't much privacy in those longhouses.

    I'm thankful to be living when and where I am.

  5. Ruth,

    Yes, even when I was a child, supper was more simple to make. We grew our vegetables and fruit and canned or froze them. (When we finally were able to get a freezer.) Grandpa supplied us with some meat in return with help for butchering. So, it was whatever was on hand. Mom used to make treats for dessert. Sometimes Grandma made ice cream.

    Loved your photos of the village. I didn't realize that there was a village near Campbellford. Thanks for the tip.

    Enjoyed your post below about the apples and cider. Brings back many memories. The boys and I pick apples each fall and it's coming that time of year.


  6. I think you and I are kindred spirits...

  7. I love the three sisters. That is often how the SW natives planted as well. The Long House looks like an interesting place to visit. Much like when I worked at Mesa Verde I could hear the people at work and play. Life was hard, but I'm not sure it's any easier today. Way too many choices in the stores. We are often too busy to stop and listen to the world.

  8. Simpler times indeed... and healthier. That soup sounds really yummy Ruth.

  9. I'm saving that recipe for my first fall soup. Looks delicious and very simple to make.
    Thanks for that fascinating tour through the Iroquois Village.

  10. Thanks to all who took the time to comment. I am glad I live in this day and age, but like to learn from the better aspects of other eras.


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