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Corn and squash

Corn and squash are grown by Indigenous peoples of the Iroquoian language family. These groups gradually became sedentary between the 8th and the 13th century, taking up agriculture, a feature distinguishing them from Algonquian populations. Their diet is largely based on vegetable production. They live in villages upstream of the St. Lawrence, between the region of the City of Quebec and the Great Lakes.

Around 1500, agriculture reaches its peak among the Iroquoians. Having developed great expertise in the field, these groups sometimes cultivate their fields up to 2 km around certain villages. After 10 to 20 years of farming, when the soil is exhausted, the Indigenous peoples relocate.

Corn, squash, and beans are grown together in the field. They are known as the Three Sisters, since they help each other grow: the beans climb on the cornstalks, enriching the soil by fixing nitrogen; the squash, with its wide leaves, preserves soil moisture by shading the ground. Corn is boiled or baked, then dried or roasted for preservation. Crop farming, mainly carried out by women, also includes melons, sunflowers, cucumbers, and wild berries.

Trading between the Iroquoian and Algonquian peoples add agricultural produce to a diet based on hunting, fishing, and gathering.

Several agricultural and harvest festivals are celebrated each year.



Atallah, N. (2017). Décolonisation de l’alimentation des peuples autochtones: étude de cas de la communauté Anishnabe de Lac Simon [Decolonisating the Indigenous peoples’ diet: a case study of Lac Simon’s Anishnabe community] [Doctoral dissertation, Université d’Ottawa]. https://ruor.uottawa.ca/bitstream/10393/36842/5/Atallah_Nour_2017_th%C3%A8se.pdf

Gagné, M. (2022). Les Iroquoiens du Saint-Laurent: culture et agriculture [The St. Lawrence Iroquoians: culture and agriculture]. Continuités, 92. https://id.erudit.org/iderudit/16106ac

Gouvernement du Canada. (n.d.). Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic: The Iroquoians of Québec area. Parks Canada. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from https://www.pc.gc.ca/fr/lhn-nhs/qc/cartierbrebeuf/culture/autochtone-indigenous/natcul6

Illustration: Corn and squash