Land Based Learning

Nanaboozho and the Maple Trees

A very long time ago, when the world was new, Gitchee Manitou made things so that
life was very easy for the people. There was plenty of game and the weather was always
good and the maple trees were filled with thick sweet syrup. Whenever anyone wanted
to get maple syrup from the trees, all they had to do was break off a twig and collect it as
it dripped out.

One day, Nanaboozho went walking around. "I think I'll go see how my friends the
Anishinaabek are doing," he said. So, he went to a village of Anishinaabe people. But,
there was no one around. So, Nanaboozho looked for the people. They were not fishing
in the streams or the lake. They were not working in the fields hoeing their crops. They
were not gathering berries. Finally, he found them. They were in the grove of maple
trees near the village. They were just lying on their backs with their mouths open, letting
maple syrup drip into their mouths.

"This will NOT do!" Nanaboozho said. "My people are all going to be fat and lazy if
they keep on living this way."

So, Nanaboozho went down to the river. He took with him a big basket he had made of
birch bark. With this basket, he brought back many buckets of water. He went to the top
of the maple trees and poured water in so that it thinned out the syrup. Now, thick
maple syrup no longer dripped out of the broken twigs. Now what came out was thin
and watery and just barely sweet to the taste.

"This is how it will be from now on," Nanaboozho said. "No longer will syrup drip from
the maple trees. Now there will only be this watery sap. When people want to make
maple syrup they will have to gather many buckets full of the sap in a birch bark basket
like mine. They will have to gather wood and make fires so they can heat stones to drop
into the baskets. They will have to boil the water with the heated stones for a long time
to make even a little maple syrup. Then my people will no longer grow fat and lazy.
Then they will appreciate this maple syrup Gitchee Manitou made available to them.
Not only that, this sap will drip only from the trees at a certain time of the year. Then it
will not keep people from hunting and fishing and gathering and hoeing in the fields.

This is how it is going to be," Nanaboozho said.

And, that is how it is to this day.