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Planting with the ‘Three Sisters’ is how these Utahns keep their Indigenous roots alive

Ceremony participant Judith Magaly, originally from Guatemala, joined other volunteers at Wasatch Community Gardens on May 13, 2023, to plant seeds that have just been blessed.
David Childs
/
KUER
Ceremony participant Judith Magaly, originally from Guatemala, joined other volunteers at Wasatch Community Gardens on May 13, 2023, to plant seeds that have just been blessed.

The ceremonial blessing and planting of seeds is a traditional agricultural practice of Indigenous people from Latin America.

Annually, Wasatch Community Gardens and the cultural arts group Artes de Mexico en Utah conduct such a ceremony.

It holds a special place in the hearts of people from those cultures who now call Utah home.

According to 2020 Census data compiled by the Kem C. Gardner Institute, 15% of Utahns are of Hispanic or Latino origin. Artist and educator Vicky Lowe said the community gathered for the ceremony identifies beyond that designation.

“We are not Spaniards, Latinos, Mexicanos — we are Indigenous people. We've been doing our ceremonies in different spaces, but now to have all of us here together, we're getting stronger and that’s what we need.”

The ceremony and planting is based on the ancestral and cultural concepts of "La Milpa" and "Three Sisters."

It’s a traditional method of growing crops, including corn, beans and squash.

Translator and volunteer Laura Perez said those gathered at Wasatch Community Gardens are building community while deepening their connection to the earth.

“We want to make sure that Mother Nature will help grow the food strong and we’re using everyone in the community — everyone here is helping. You have the little ones who have their sticks, and they're making the holes so that the adults can go in and plant the seed,” said Perez.

Wasatch Community Gardens, the site of the ceremony and planting, nestled behind wrought iron gates with busy rush hour traffic whizzing by.
David Childs
/
KUER
Wasatch Community Gardens, the site of the ceremony and planting, nestled behind wrought iron gates with busy rush hour traffic whizzing by.
On a patch of grass at the Wasatch Community Gardens, a ceremonial site was created with an altar known as an ofrenda, placed in the center to honor lost loved ones. Through prayer, this is where ancestors are asked to bless the seeds.
David Childs
/
KUER
On a patch of grass at the Wasatch Community Gardens, a ceremonial site was created with an altar known as an ofrenda, placed in the center to honor lost loved ones. Through prayer, this is where ancestors are asked to bless the seeds.
A participant holds bean, corn and squash seeds to be planted. Volunteer and translator Laura Perez describes how the combination works. “They're going to plant the corn and the beans together. And then in between that, they will have the squash to be a natural mulch. So as the corn grows, the bean is going to grow with it.”
David Childs
/
KUER
A participant holds bean, corn and squash seeds to be planted. Volunteer and translator Laura Perez describes how the combination works. “They're going to plant the corn and the beans together. And then in between that, they will have the squash to be a natural mulch. So as the corn grows, the bean is going to grow with it.”
The planting of the blessed seeds has deep cultural roots and is intended to keep indigeneity alive and thriving into the future. Community member Johnny Hernandez said he doesn’t want his kids to forget that. “I feel like in order for that to happen, you have to get involved, get out there, do things, get your hands dirty.”
David Childs
/
KUER
The planting of the blessed seeds has deep cultural roots and is intended to keep indigeneity alive and thriving into the future. Community member Johnny Hernandez said he doesn’t want his kids to forget that. “I feel like in order for that to happen, you have to get involved, get out there, do things, get your hands dirty.”
Community members work together to plant the sacred garden. Ceremony participant Judith Magaly said it’s meaningful work. “We're all giving love. And we want to show that to our future generations that we're coming from love. That's why the families are here and we want to show future generations that we need to continue. We want them to get their hands dirty and feel the earth.”
David Childs
/
KUER
Community members work together to plant the sacred garden. Ceremony participant Judith Magaly said it’s meaningful work. “We're all giving love. And we want to show that to our future generations that we're coming from love. That's why the families are here and we want to show future generations that we need to continue. We want them to get their hands dirty and feel the earth.”

Corrected: July 3, 2023 at 12:04 PM MDT
An earlier version of this story misspelled Judith Magaly's surname. We regret the error.
Pamela is KUER's All Things Considered Host.
David Childs has had two tours with KUER. First, in 2012 as a weekend host before pairing that with a full-time position on the development team in 2013. And second starting in 2021 as a fill-in host before taking the reins as production coordinator.
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