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Planting the “Three Sisters” with the First Lady Michelle Obama


At Indian Affairs, we are actively involved with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! in Indian Country initiative and inspired to help achieve the goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.  

First Lady Michelle Obama planting with childrenOne of the most important ways to get healthy, in addition to good exercise habits, is by eating right. Gardening and learning how to grow healthy foods is a great way to unite exercise and proper diet. Before coming to Washington D.C., my wife and I kept a family garden where we grew a wide variety of produce, including vegetables and herbs. We know how meaningful it is to grow something from seeds to final harvest. Although we don't have the ability to have a full garden here in D.C., we still plant herbs and spices in small containers.  

That's one of the reasons why it was particularly meaningful for me to join Mrs. Obama on Friday, June 3, to harvest and plant crops in the White House kitchen garden. We were joined by other leaders in the American Indian and Alaska Native community, as well as children and community members from a variety of American Indian communities. For more information, please go to: http://www.bia.gov/idc/groups/public/documents/text/idc013955.pdf.  

Children PlantingTogether, we planted the "Three Sisters"- corn, beans and squash - in the garden, which follows a traditional Native American planting technique that grows crops in a mutually beneficial manner: the corn provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles; the beans provide the soil with nitrogen that the other plants use; and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight and preventing weeds. Generations of Native people from many different tribes have been using the "Three Sisters" technique and it is a powerful symbol that it is now a part of the White House garden.  

The day's events were concluded with a surprise visit from President Obama who shared some words of encouragement with our young people.  

The day was a great success and highlighted the importance of building healthy communities through activity and eating right - especially in our Indian communities. 

I hope that all of you in Indian Country and across the nation will consider planting crops like the Three Sisters, or that you will get involved in creating community gardens to help foster the healthy mindset that will keep Let's Move! in Indian Country going strong.  

Larry Echo Hawk is the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs for the Department of the Interior

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