"Stories of the Maple Tree"
"It is here, in the rocky sanctuaries near the lakes or in hidden domains in the very depth of the woods – sometimes circular glades in the middle of pine and cedar tree woods formed by little spirits, such as bagwajininiwag (“little wilderness men”) –, that men and women seeking a vision quest, searching for solitude and yielding to the quiet mystery of the lake’s and forest’s existence, are welcomed by the spirits. And it was here, in their dreams at night, that our ancestors were told by the bagwajininiwag how to boil down aninaatigwaaboo, the sacred water that comes from the maple trees, to make sugar.”
- Zhaawano Giizhik
Mewinzha igo ishkigamiziganing gete-aya'aag gii-izhaawag.Gii-taawag gete-aya'aag gii-ozhitoowag ziinzibaakwaad.
For a long time the ancestors used to go to the sugar bush. The ancestors used to stay there and make sugar.
Nakawe, biindaakoojigewag anishinaabeg. Bagoneyaa a'aw mitig. Naadoobii. Ozhaboobiiginaan ziinzibakwadwaaboo a'aw anishinaabe. Manise a'aw anishinaabe. Dazhi-iskigamizige iwidi ishkigamiziganing a'aw anishinaabe.
First, the Anishinaabe makes tobacco offerings. A hole is drilled in the tree. He gathers sap in a birch bark bucket. The Anishinaabe strains the maple sap. Then the sap is boiled. The Anishinaabe gathers wood, then he boils the sap at the sugar camp.
|Collecting sap at a maple sugar camp at mde wáḳaŋ (Mille Lacs Lake), 1939. Photo by Monroe P Killy. Minnesota Historical Society.|
A digital adaptation of the "Thirteen Teachings From Grandmother Moon Sugar Moon" Pure Silver Coloured Coin.
A tale about how the Anishinaabeg learned how to boil maple sap
|Bagwajininiwag, called bagwajinishinaabenhsag by some, are dwarflike forest dwellers. Although good-natured, they are probably more mischievous than the Memegwesiwag; they sometimes mess with people's memories or move their things around. If you annoy them, you'll probably lose your keys...Source: Imgur.com.|
“Gchi-mewzha go gonda bgojinishnaabenhsag bi ko yaawaad maampii gidkamig. Kina go mziwe yaawag. Naangodnoong gaawiin gdoo-waabmaasiig, yaawag dash wii go. Gaawiin ngikendamaasiig yaawaad. Gaawiin ooya bbaamendmaasiiwaan. Mii ninda Nishnaabeg gaa-kinoomaagwaajin waa-zhi-ziisbaakdokewaad. Ninaatigo-ziiwaagbmide gii-zhichgaade maampii Canada jibwaa-dgoshnawaad gonda waabshkiiyejig gchi-gaaming bi-njibaajig. Mewzha, bgojinishnaabenhsag gii-yaanaawaa niigaan-nendmowin, noongo ezhinikaadeg ‘telepathy.’ Epiichi- nbaaying, Bgojinishnaabenhsag kii-wiindamaagnaanik waa- zhi-zhitooying ninaatigo- ziiwaagbmide. Kii-wjitoonaa, gii-nakiimgad dash go. Noongo go geyaabi zhichgaade ninaatigo- ziiwaagbimide. Mii gonda bgojininiwag gaa-zhichgewaad, gaa-zhi-kinoomaagyiing. Bgojinishnaabenhsag, yaawag go geyaabi."
“Those bagwajinishinaabenhsag (little wilderness beings) have been around this earth for a long time, and there are more of them, all over this country. But you can’t see them, sometimes, but they are around though. I don’t know where they are. They never hurt anybody. And that’s how the Anishinaabe learned how to make maple syrup. Maple syrup was being made here, in Canada, long before the Europeans came here. A long time before, bagwajinishinaabenhsag had, what most people describe as ‘telepathy.’ While we were sleeping, bagwajinishinaabenhsag told us how to make maple syrup. So, when we were told how to make it, we tried it and it worked. It’s still being made today, but, it was those little wilderness men that told us how to do it. Bagwajinishinaabenhsag, they are still around."¹
|Illustration:Sugar making in the old days. Source: Ningo Gikinonwin: Ojibwe Four Seasons.|
Inininaatig Aadizookaan - The Sacred Story of the Man Tree, Gift from the Great Mystery
Wiinabozho decided that after all the hardships in the past, life had become too convenient for his People; they would all grow fat and lazy because they would never had to work anymore.
So he made a basket out of birch bark, filled it with water, went to the top of the man trees and poured the water down their trunks. Suddenly, the thick syrup turned thin and watery, just barely sweet. From now on, Wiinabozho said, the Anishinaabeg will have to work for their syrup by collecting it in great amounts in a birch basket like mine, and then boil off the water by heating the sap with hot stones. In this way, people will appreciate their hear-earned syrup. But Wiinabozho made it so that maples only produced the sap during certain times of the year, at the end of winter, so the Anishinaabeg would spend the rest of the year working in the fields and hunting and catching fish. And this is how it has been ever since..."