After another frigid-but-fun night camping in Colorado’s snowy mountains, we drove down to its arid foothills. Coming up to the Mesa Verde ruins, where the Ancestral Pueblo Anasazi people built their homes in the sides of the Canyon walls, was the experience of a lifetime.
One of the first National Park signs I read inspired me with Its words:
“Mesa Verde is the beginning place. We respected nature. We respected the cosmos. We respected the animals, the trees, the flowers. We respected our resources -everything that we counted on to sustain our lives here at the Mesa Verde until the final migration.”
Mystery shrouds the Anasazi’s reason for leaving on a “final migration” and abandoning their ledgeside homes sometime in the late 1200s. After seven centuries, however, traces of their once-thriving community still remain.
The “Cliff Dweller” farmers grew yucca, corn and beans. According to another Park sign, when excavator Jesse Walter Fewkes uncovered their ancient dwellings around the turn of the 20th century, he discovered:
Finely woven yucca sandals
Wooden farming tools
A stone ax complete with handle
And seeds of corn, squash, pumpkin, and cotton.
For many of America’s indigenous tribes, including the Anasazi, planting corn, beans and squash – also known as “The Three Sisters” – in the same “hill” was both spiritually and agriculturally significant. The USDA observes of combining them:
“Only together can they truly grow and thrive… The traditional Three Sisters garden forms its own ecosystem by creating a biologically diverse community. This style of planting uses three different crops to their full potential, representing a circle of harmony and interdependence based on giving and receiving.”
The upright cornstalks supported the climbing bean vines, which in turn stabilized the cornstalks. The ground-hugging squash vines’ leaves shaded the soil, preserving moisture and discouraging weeds. Cooperation at its best!
The USDA continues:
Corn, beans, and squash also complement each other nutritionally. Corn provides carbohydrates, the beans are rich in proteins, and the squash contains a number of vitamins and nutrients.
Besides caring deeply about Nature, it seems these early Americans instinctively understood the nutritional benefits of plant-based eating! They also fully embraced the challenges of living life on the edge.
Sound like the type of people we’d be wise to emulate!