Families and friends of the Oneida Indian Nation community gathered for the 24th annual Three Sisters Dinner at Turning Stone Resort’s Shenendoah Clubhouse on Thursday, March 7. It was another blustery, cold day, but everyone in attendance warmed up quickly with the delicious healthy food platter prepared by Turning Stone chefs.

The dinner is coordinated by the Nation’s Diabetes Program and highlights the importance of the sustainers of life – corn, beans and squash. Mollie Tracy, the Oneida Indian Nation’s diabetes program coordinator, says it’s also about raising awareness of diabetes, which disproportionally affects American Indians, and maintaining healthy living habits to prevent it. That’s why this year’s theme was “Coloring Your Plate with the Colors of Nutrition.”

Prior to the main course, Health Services prepared stations in the corners of the ballroom with all kinds of colorful fruits and vegetables. A few stations included favorites like fresh kiwi, cantaloupe and clementines as well as rarer kinds like gooseberry and starfruit. Turning Stone chef Bryan Hammond also prepared a cauliflower salad that he said is as delicious as it is photogenic.

The event began with the Thanksgiving Address, which was recited by Oneida language trainee Chelsea Jocko (Wolf Clan). Nation Representative Ray Halbritter (Wolf Clan) then spoke briefly about his own experiences in healthy living and how he stays active.

Nation Representative Ray Halbritter

“A healthy lifestyle is essential to living a long, rewarding life the way the Creator intended for all of us,” he said. “I felt really good, but my trainer said I looked tired…I had a blood test soon after and I learned my sugar was way too high, and that’s how I discovered I had type II diabetes myself.”

Ray began changing his diet and workout habits to bring his sugar level down to a healthy range. “It’s worth it to eat a little healthier,” he said in closing. “Because what good is all we have if we don’t have our health to enjoy it? We all have so much to be thankful for.”

Mollie thanked Ray for sharing his personal healthy living story. When you hear stories, it can inspire and motivate others to take care of their own physical wellbeing. Paying attention to your workout and eating habits are great ways to start getting in shape, even if it’s running a few minutes each day or counting the calories of your meals.

Karen Halbritter and daughter Kathryn (Wolf Clan) attend the Three Sisters Dinner regularly. Both said they try to eat healthy and train regularly as well.

“It’s great to see and visit with family and friends,” Kathryn said. “The food is always delicious, too.”

The dinner itself featured something for everybody’s tastes. There were several healthy salads and vegetable dishes, and a few meat options that included venison as well as a bison chili, which was a perfect choice on the cold night. Barb George-Winton (Wolf Clan) also made the traditional corn soup, which is always a favorite dish every year.

To close out the evening, Chris Thomas led many in some traditional social dances. Several kids even practiced their smoke dancing techniques. With over 150 people in attendance, the Three Sisters Dinner remains a popular event and a great way to welcome spring, even if the snow is still flying.