Nation Members and their guests filled the banquet hall of the Shenendoah Clubhouse at Turning Stone Resort Casino for the 23rd annual Three Sisters Dinner on Thursday, March 9.

The dinner traditionally marks the beginning of spring and highlights the importance of a healthy lifestyle and diabetes awareness. While there was a chill in the air outside, guests were warm and enthusiastic inside.

The festivities kicked off with an honorary prayer recited in the Oneida language by Clairese Patterson (Wolf Clan). “The prayer thanks everybody that they are here and safe,” said Clairese. “It’s important to recognize the Three Sisters because they are our sustainers of life.”

The Three Sisters – corn, beans and squash – provide essential nutrients that are a solid foundation to healthy living and eating. Beans are a good source of calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, and protein. Squash is low in fat and high in dietary fiber. Corn provides vitamin C, calcium, iron, and potassium, as well as carbohydrates for energy.

The central mission of the Three Sisters Dinner is to educate Members about healthy eating through the sustainers of life. The event is also sponsored by the Oneida Nation Diabetes Program to raise awareness of the disease and its prevalence in American Indians.

Nation Member Valerie Scott (Turtle Clan) organized this year’s event. “We wanted to try a different format so we set up different stations to get everybody a chance to mingle and move around.”

Attendees visited booths set up by the Nation’s Health Services and recreation departments. Health Services nurses offered blood pressure checks and screenings in addition to literature on diabetes prevention and care. Cole Perkins and Anita Williams (Turtle Clan) managed the Recreation booth, which detailed upcoming events at the Rec Center and several new exercise programs.

Mollie Tracy, the Nation’s new Nutritionist and Diabetes Program Coordinator, was also on hand to answer health-related questions. “The event is a great opportunity to get out information,” she said. “We have fitness program information, kid-friendly healthy snacks and prizes to give away.”

The Nation plans several events in conjunction with Health Services, an integral part of the Oneida Indian Nation’s mission to help Members receive the best in physical and mental health care.

Linda Williams (Turtle Clan) enjoys attending the Three Sisters Dinner every year. “I love seeing people I haven’t seen in a while,” she said pointing out people around the room. “They also gave us Three Sisters seeds to plant ourselves. I can’t wait to start my garden.”

Melissa McCann (Turtle Clan) is a huge veggie fan as well, which is one of the reasons she keeps coming back to the dinner. “It’s a lot of fun and the recipes are always interesting. This is probably our 5th or 6th time [attending].”

The night came to a close with a few social dances led by Wes Halsey (Wolf Clan) and Chris Thomas. The spirited dances have become tradition following the dinner and all generations participated, which sent everyone home smiling ear to ear. What a great night of healthy food and fun!