So, what are those plants on the reverse of the 2009 Sacagawea Dollar and why?
Let’s go back in time to the 1600s.
Born in England in 1604, John Eliot came to the New World in 1631 to live in Roxbury, Massachusetts.
As a chaplain and church elder, Eliot worked with the local Indians. He learned their language and translated the Bible using their words. The English colonists printed several of these Bibles for the Indians.
Years later, James Trumbull used Eliot’s translated Bible as a source to build the Natick Dictionary of Algonquian terms.
In the dictionary, beans can be found in a number of places. One elaborates:
tuppuhquam-ash, n. pl. beans, 2 Sam. 17, 28; but “beans-ash”, Ezek. 4, 9; lit. creepers, or twiners: tuppuhquamco, ‘it winds about’, twines. Probably the Phaseolus vulgaris L. (common pole bean), as manusqussêdash (bush bean) is the var. nanus.
Corn has different names, too, but they stem from this word:
weatchimin, n. corn (in the field), standing grain, Deut. 23, 25.
Another word, weatchimínneash, means ripe ears of corn.
Their word for squash, askútasquash, equates to “their vine apple, which the English from them call squashes, about the bigness of apples of several colors.”
So, what’s with the beans, corn and squash or tuppuhquamash, weatchimin, and askutasquash?
Simply, those are the three sisters.
Indians learned that by planting climbing beans with corn as their trellis and squash as a living mulch for both, the three crops produced more vegetables to feed their tribes.
Of course, the three planted together do not work in large production fields plowed, planted and harvested by machine, but for the smaller gardens worked manually, the increased yield is significant at 30% more.
In recognition of the Indian agricultural knowledge, the 2009 Sacagawea Dollar Coin Reverse shows the Three Sisters planting method.