From the chapter, “Full-Blooded White People” in Anishinaabe Syndicated: A View from the Rez
By Jim Northrup

We are tapping maple trees again as we do every year. As I travel around Indian country, I see more and more Indian people going to the sugar bush.

Niinawind ozhiga’ige miinawa niinawind gwayakochige akina gikinoonowin. Amanj’igo apii niin babaamaadizi giiwitaa-ayi’ii Anishinaabewaki, niin waabi eshkam Anishinaabeg izhaa iskigamizigan.

The crows told us it was time for making maple syrup. Two bald eagles flew over the fire when we were boiling the water out of the sap.

Aandegwag biidaajimo maajitoon zhiiwaagamizige. Niizh migiziwag babaamibide ishpayi’ii giiwitaashkode aanapii niinawind ishkwaagamizige.

We have a small sugar bush, barely over a hundred taps. We take only what we need for feasts and funerals, gifts and pancakes.

Niinawind ayaan agaasaa iskigamizigan, agaawaa ishpayi’ii ingodwaak ozhiga’ige. Niinawind onjiwiidoon minik niinawind manezi wiikondiwag dash bagidenjige, debaa’ooki dash gwekiwebinigan.

Once again it was a learning experience for our grandchildren. They helped us gather the sap from the trees. They are too young to help with the boiling, so they just watched, and listened when we told sugar bush stories.

Aabiding minawaa gikinowaabi noozhishenhyag. Wiinawaa wiidokaazo naadoobi onjiwidoon aninaatigoog. Wiinawaa gaye oshka’aawi naadamaage iskigamizige ji-ganawaabandan dash biz-indaw aanapii niinawind aadodan iskigamizigan.

We watched winter turn into spring. The sun was warm and reminded us of summer. The wind was cold and was a reminder of the winter that just left.

Niinawind ganawaabandan biboonong aanjitoon ziigwan. Giizis abaaso nanda-mikwendan niibin. Dakaanimad nanda-mikwendan biboonoog endanagadan.

Making syrup is just a lot of work. Sometimes it is hard work, but most of the time is spent just staring at the fire, watching the sap so it doesn’t burn. We spend hours cutting firewood.

Zhiiwaagamiziganike indigo ondamanokii. Ayaangodinong miish zanagendan anokii aanawi awashime daso-diba’iganed ganawaabandan ishkode, naanaagadawaabandan wiishkobaaboo ji-gaawiin agwaabikizan. Niinawind dazhitaa daso-diba’igan manisaadan.

I remember how my grampa used to keep the sap from boiling over. He hung a piece of salt pork over the hot sap. When it came to boil over, it would get as far as the salt pork and go back down. It was easier than using a balsam branch.

Niin mikwendan nimishoomis nagajitoon nagaashkaatoon wiishkobaaboo ziigigamide. Wiin inagoodoon bakwezhan zhiiwitagani-gookoosh ishpayi’ii gizhizo wiishkobaaboo. Aanapii wiishko-baaboo ziigigamide, miish zhiiwitagani gookoosh daamaajitoon azheshkaa. Miish wenipanad indawaaj inasabajitoon zhingob wadikwan.

I feel happy when I am using my black kettle to boil sap. Just knowing that Indians all over northern Minnesota were making syrup like I was felt good.

Niin inendam minawaanigozi aanapii miwaabajitoon makadewaa okaadakik ishkwaagamizige. Enda-gikenjige Anishinaabeg miziwe giiwedin Minnesota zhiiwaagamiziganike dibishkoo niin minwamanji’o.

When we say we are of the earth, it is true. I think there is something in the maple syrup that I need. It makes sense. Countless generations of my ancestors depended on the syrup for food. I will continue to make syrup every spring.

Amanj igo apii niinawind ikido niinawind odaadad aki, miish debwe. Niin naanaagadawenim ayi’ii memwech megwe-ayi’ii zhiiwaagamizigan manwezi. Mino-inendan, gaawin agim aanikoobijiganag apenimo zhiiwaagamizigan miijiim. Nin wii-zhiiwaagamiziganike akina ziigwan.

We are thankful for the gift of syrup from the Creator.

Niinawind miigwechiwendan debi’zhiiwaagamiziganike onjibaa Gichi-manidoo.

On a related note, I once read a book about the way the white guys do it. I don’t have the book title anymore, but I recall that they had 7,000 taps connected with eight miles of plastic tubing, sucking the sap from the trees using vacuum pumps. They expected to collect 70,000 gallons of sap to make 1,700 gallons of syrup, which could be sold for a huge profit. The book only used the phrase “Native Americans” once while telling the story of making maple syrup.