On April 2, Climate and Cultural Resiliency Coordinator Ivy Vainio and AICHO Children Activities Coordinator Katie Hanson brought two Gimaajii parents, one Gimaajii grandparent, and eleven Youth to Jimmy Northrup’s Sugar Bush (Maple Syrup Harvest) camp on the Fond du Lac Ojibwe Reservation. The session lasted 3 hours and started with Elias, one of the Gimaajii youth, giving Jimmy Northrup and everyone a little bit of asemaa (tobacco) in their hands. Everyone walked about a half a mile through a snow-covered pathway to get to the edge of the woods and to the entrance of the trail that led to the sugar camp.
Once there, Jimmy spoke about the cultural importance of harvesting and how generations of Ojibwe and other northern tribes of Native peoples have harvested maple, basswood and birch sap for food supplies. Then he led everyone on a skinny path to the sugar bush camp nestled into the woods where a tarped stand stood with some chairs, an old large black iron kettle hanging from a makeshift teepee structure, and split wood for the fire lined up on along the side of the clearing.
Cleaned milk cartons hung from tree taps as far as the eye could see. Jimmy said that they tapped over 200 trees. Jimmy shared stories about his family, especially how his dad the late Jim Northrup (Ojibwe author) taught him how to sugar bush and other traditional stories. He took everyone on a walk through the sugar bush and spoke about the various types of trees and Indigenous plants found in the woods there. Once back to the camp, Jimmy showed the kids where a couple of sleds were and then the kids and families spent some time sliding down the hills while others stayed by a fire by the kettle to keep warm. At the end of our time at the camp, Jimmy took out some sacred cedar, sweet grass, and sage and ceremoniously smudged everyone who was there before walking back down the trail to the clearing.
Photos by Ivy Vainio.