Trumansburg Central School District recently cooked up a very special guest speaker for its fourth grade students.

Ethan Tyo, a recent Syracuse University’s Food Studies M.S. program graduate and a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe, paid a visit to Trumansburg Elementary students right before Thanksgiving to cook his “Three Sisters Garden Medley” on site. The stew includes a recipe that celebrates his tribe’s Three Sister Garden, which is a nod to the cohesive nature of squash, corn, and beans, a.k.a the “three sisters.”

After meeting Ethan through a mutual friend, Trumansburg Farm to School Coordinator Paul Buck was able to get Ethan to come in as a guest speaker for the fourth grade class. 

“The day went extremely well,” Paul said. “The fourth grade teachers were doing a unit on indigenous people and teaching them about the Three Sisters Garden. The students were engaged and interested in learning from Ethan. They really enjoyed the samples and almost all the students ate the Three Sisters stew.”

Buck noted that his position with the district, and the Farm to School program, is meant to help enrich “the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local producers. Students learn about gardening and cooking with local produce. Also students learn about local and New York Agriculture. The Farm to School coordinator works with the classroom teacher, cafeteria and the community.”

It’s safe to say that Ethan’s visit checked a lot of those boxes.

“Being welcomed to do workshops with the fourth graders at Trumansburg Central School District was a great opportunity to bring this meaningful work to a younger generation and inspire them to explore the food system and traditional knowledge through hands-on experience,” Ethan said.

“I loved being able to distill the work I’ve been doing for years and appreciate the passion that Trumansburg puts behind educating our youth about food and the Indigenous communities who continue to steward our ways today,” he continued. “Seeing each student participate and know that they are helping our people in a meaningful way really brought home the mission of my work and the generational impact this could have for our future generations, Indigenous and Non-Indigenous.”

Ethan explained to students that the Three Sisters became a pivotal part of his project as a true Land Acknowledgment and “a space in higher education for our Indigenous students to participate in their traditions.” He noted that his project also opened up a place for discussion on how we can advance the inclusion and acceptance of alternative knowledge in standard academic environments. 

Ethan added that the Three Sisters Sovereignty Garden is now present at three universities alongside dozens of educational workshops, demos, and speaking opportunities to promote Indigenous culture and storytelling across the educational system from seed-to-seed. 

He was thrilled some Trumansburg students got to hear, see, and taste all of his learnings.

“The most rewarding part of teaching food/cooking workshops,” he said, “is being able to introduce people to parts of the food system that often go overlooked, like gardening and seed-saving. And who doesn’t like a delicious meal to pair along with the work they are doing? Getting two thumbs up from dozens of kids and listening to their stories about food and how they related to the Three Sisters was heartwarming.”

Ethan said this was the first time he ever was a guest speaker like this for a school, but after his experience, it could be something he looks to do often moving forward.

“Trumansburg has left me feeling more empowered and motivated,” he said, “and has shown me the impact that experience-based learning has on students at any education level. I hope to continue working with them and many more K-12 school districts looking to get out of the textbooks and learn through first-hand experience. Each seed the students helped collect will go on to be planted and feed the next generations in our communities. I hope that they bring these stories back to their families to share, along with a delicious recipe based off the Three Sisters to liven up their holiday meals, and give thanks to the land and Indigenous traditions Thanksgiving was grounded in.”