On a snowy evening in early March, Oneida Members and their guests celebrated the sustainers of life – corn, beans and squash – at the 23rd annual Three Sisters Dinner at the Turning Stone Resort Casino’s Shenendoah Clubhouse. The annual dinner is sponsored by the Oneida Indian Nation’s Health Services Yukwata’kali:ték Diabetes Program and designed to increase awareness of the prevalence of diabetes in American Indians. The Oneida Nation offers events like the Three Sisters Dinner to empower those affected by or are at risk for diabetes and educate them on how to take control of their health, said Mollie Tracy, the Nation’s Diabetes Program Coordinator.

The theme for this year’s dinner was “Go Further with Food” in recognition of National Nutrition Month, which promotes healthy eating habits in ways that also help to avoid food waste. Attendees received a packet at check-in that included important information regarding heart disease, heart health and diabetes. They also received special Three Sisters recipes and seed packets to plant vegetables in their own home gardens.

“I remember getting these [seed packets] way back when,” Deb Montroy (Turtle Clan) said when she sat down at her table. “It’s great that we’re continuing the tradition of the Three Sisters dinner and it’s always fun seeing old friends.”

In each corner of the banquet hall were four educational stations where Health Services staff were measuring blood sugar, giving blood pressure screenings and advice on managing health – and one station in the far-left corner of the room featured one of Turning Stone’s chefs showing a small crowd how to properly cut and deconstruct a chicken to save money at the grocery store; another way to go further with food. Attendees that visited all four stations could enter the prize drawings at the end of the night, which included Pyrex glass storage containers, cutting boards, a running-enthusiast kit and a kitchen essentials kit.

After the station activities, Chelsea Jocko (Wolf Clan) recited the Thanksgiving Address in the Oneida language to kick off the dinner. Chelsea is one of four students in the Oneida Nation’s Language Department where she is learning from instructor Mary Blau (Turtle Clan).

The buffet-style dinner featured a salad station, a soup station, an entrée station and a dessert station. With all the healthy options available, attendees were introduced to new ways to create meals that are both filling and delicious. Bison and Turkey sliders were the main course with tasty zucchini fries. Barb George-Winton (Wolf Clan) also supplied the traditional corn soup for the dinner. Other soups included a venison stew and a veggie option.

Placemats at each seat gave more details on how to go further with food from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. With billions of pounds of food thrown away each year, some tips and tricks can help you get the most from the food you buy. Among those tips are buying only the amount of food you can eat or freeze within a few days, transition leftovers into soups, salads or sandwiches, and place food that can spoil quickly within easy sight in the refrigerator.

Eating smart and healthy is just one way to take control of your health. Taking a walk, exercising regularly, and even laughing every day are great ways to maintain a healthy mind and heart. Elder Larry Gabriel (Turtle Clan) enjoys attending these events and sharing laughs with his children, Jeff and Laurie.

“I go because my kids love to go,” Larry said after the dinner. “The events are always special.”

After the dinner, Chris Thomas led attendees in several social dances including the corn dance, the women’s dance and the round dance to conclude the night. The Oneida Indian Nation’s Health Services and Diabetes Program continue to provide the best care and resources for Members and their families. Thank you to everyone that attended for making the event a perennial success.