Northwoods Adventure: Manidoo Ogitigaan Helps with Yearly Sugar Bush
Maple syrup is not just a topping for one’s pancakes when it comes to the process of sugaring. Tapping, boiling and refining the sugar from sap is a long-held tradition for the Anishinaabe, and it’s made possible with the help of the non-profit Manidoo Ogitigaan.
Many people celebrate the coming of spring in different and unique ways. Whether it’s planting flowers or watching that last bit of snow melt, the warm spring is welcomed after a cold winter. But just north of Ponemah, the Anishinaabe make camp and continue the traditional practice of sugaring, or making maple syrup.
It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. Although there may be great amounts of sap collected, the drastic change in weather can also affect the time and way trees are tapped.
After collecting the sap, it is put into large, metal kettles and boiled over an open fire. Hot water is added in increments, allowing the sap to boil longer. People of all ages can participate in sugar making and experience the benefits of community work.
Last year, the process took about six weeks to fully complete. This year, the group started at the beginning of March. Overall, there will be different forms of sugar gathered, from maple syrup to a very refined product.
Due to the history and meaning of the sugar bush, the Anishinaabe consider what they harvest a gift. While some people choose to proceed with sugaring in a more modern sense through the use of evaporators, some still stick to the tried-and-true way of an open fire, sturdy kettles, and a tight-knit community.