A Very Native Halloween

Hello Autumn! At Eighth Generation, we are getting ready for our annual staff Halloween party and costume contest, putting the final touches on our free, family-friendly Halloween Celebration at Pike Place Market, and living in our Gold Label wool scarves

For urban Natives and modern Indigenous people, Halloween and fall are celebrated (or not) in a variety of ways—just like everyone else. For the early Native people of North America, fall preparations were imperative for a successful winter, and a big part of that was harvest of the three sisters’ crops.

The Three Sisters

The three sisters consist of corn, beans, and squash that all work together to support the successful growth of each plant. While they each can grow separately, together they thrive. Native growers understood that some plants work better together than alone, and the three sisters planting system is the perfect example: the corn grows tall and supports the winding bean vine, the beans provide extra stabilization for the tall corn stalks to survive wind while the bean roots contribute to nitrogen levels in the soil. At the base, the squash will grow leaves that provide shade that helps limit weeds and keeps the soil from drying out.


Many Native nations have a legend associated with the three sisters, while it may vary among the regions the details are usually very similar. The Haudenosaunee’s legend tells of three sisters who loved each other deeply and were rarely separated. The oldest stood tall in a pale green shawl, the middle sister wore a bright yellow dress and darted through the fields, and the youngest sister was still too small to walk and crawled along the field in a green dress. Come late summer a boy visited the field and caught the interest of each of the sisters. As time passed the first sister disappeared, and then the second. The third and eldest sister was left alone mourning her lost sisters and eventually the boy brought her to his home. There she was reunited with her sisters and the three spent their time contributing to the household—keeping the dinner pot full (the youngest sister, the squash), drying on the shelf (the middle sister, the beans), and grinding meal (the eldest sister, the corn). The sisters together make a balanced and life-sustaining meal.

The Fall Favorite Sister: Pumpkin

Pumpkins are one of the favorite squash options in the three sisters' planting system. The orange gourd is of the oldest domesticated plants in the world, with fragments being recovered from Indigenous areas in Northern Mexico from 7,000–5,500 BC. Pieces of the plant, such as the stem, were found in what is now the southwest part of the US in 610 AD.[1] Here are a few more facts about the youngest sister:

  • Europeans first encountered pumpkins in the 1500s, when pumpkins were gifted to Spanish colonizers by Indigenous Americans [2]
  • Some varieties of pumpkin have been around for the same amount of time as maize, starting in 3500 BC
  • Pumpkins are berries! Okay, it’s not that simple, but pumpkin fruits are a type of botanical berry known as a pepo [3]



Indigenous Pumpkin Spice

While it’s not the pumpkin spice of today, spiced pumpkins have been part of an Indigenous diet for thousands of years. Natives, such as the Aztec people, would cook their pumpkins with honey and spices. While they favored chili and not the standard cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves combination—Indigenous folks spiced pumpkins first. [4]


Celebrate Fall with Eighth Generation

Join Eighth Generation Saturday, October 22 at our flagship store in Pike Place Market for a kids-of-all-ages Halloween celebration with costumes, candy, performances, and more! We’ll have a spooky photobooth in our gallery open from 12pm–2pm, performances by Red Eagle Soaring, a Native youth performing arts group from 12pm–1pm, and candy for everyone who stops by in costume. Get spooky, silly, and pumpkin-spicy with Eighth Generation—Seattle’s Native-owned lifestyle brand and home goods store!