Yup, we made maple syrup again. The cycle of seasons continues and we were able to gather our share
of the annual gift. I told my grandson, Aaron, the Creator must like us: we were given syrup again.
Last month, my brother, Vern, Aaron, and I made
snowshoe trails to walk on at the sugar bush. We did a good job but at the last minute we moved the sugar bush.
We went to another place that had hip-deep snow. My cousin, Chuck Greensky (identified as Chuck Greenday in a story
by Julie Shortbread), and our kids made new trails in the new sugar bush. We like taking our kids along when we
do things like this. It gives them fuel for their I-used-to-go-to-the-sugar-bush-with-my-dad stories. I think the
cold outside air makes you sleep more. After breaking trails all day, we went home and slept like Rip Van White
My brother, Russ, and cousin, Butch Martineau,
are at their sugar bush. Butch said he tapped one tree that squirted like a fire hydrant, cutting trenches in the
snow. I told him all my trees squirt like that. Russ and Butch like sugar bush and the storytelling that goes on
there. Russ did a great imitation of a Sawyer elder talking sugarbush: "You just tap the trees and then you
just wait." He used the gestures and voice that we all recognized as belonging to one of our family members.
It is the kind of story you hear around a boiling kettle of hot sap, eyes burning in the wood smoke.
A van load of teenagers came from St. Cloud. They
wanted to camp out as part of the sugar bush experience. Too bad it was rainy and snowy. We told them about the
Black Bear Hotel with the video arcade, swimming pool, and Jacuzzi. The adults didn't want us to think they were
city Indians, so they stayed in the woods. We checked on them the next morning; their fire was still smoldering.
Aaron introduced them to his woods and his sugar
bush. He was a tour guide for the older children from the city. After he showed them around, he helped gather standing
dry wood for their fire. I shouldn't be surprised-he's been going to sugar bush all of his life, all six, almost
seven, years of it.
My son, Jim, built the frame I use for hanging
my kettle. It is still good for a few more seasons. We boiled sap into syrup. A lot of people surrounded the fire.
My niece, Deb, her husband, Greg, and three daughters put in quite a few hours at our sugar bush-enough hours that
they are talking about where they are going to put their own sugar bush next year. They came to learn and now they
can make their own syrup.
One day the children from the Reservation Head
Start program showed up. I guess we're a field trip for them. I wonder how many of those real young Shinnobs will
be making syrup when they grow up? The children had a taste of real maple syrup before they left. I don't know
how many there were; they were moving and it was hard to get a good count.
The visitor that came the farthest has got to be
Nadia. She has a last name but I can't spell it or pronounce it so I won't even try. She came from Sweden by way
of Thunder Bay. She read the Follies when she was a nanny in Chicago some years back and continued to read it in
Sweden. We connected and she came to meet the family. I'd never seen so many of my relatives when they heard we
had a visitor from Sweden. It was mostly male relatives when the moccasin telegraph reported that Nadia was young
We discovered that Nadia likes to cook, so we ate
European-style for a while. It was a change from our usual oatmeal/wild rice/meat-and-potato diet. She learned
sugar bush real fast.
My wife and I wanted to show her how some of the
real Indians lived, so we took her to bingo. She had an out but was three numbers behind, so I don't think she
knew. I couldn't tell her since I was the competition. Pat was already playing one of her boards. At half time,
Nadia got reckless and threw four quarters into a slot machine. Reckless people, these Swedes, I thought.
Pat took Nadia to catch her bus back to Thunder
Bay and Sweden. I think we will be seeing her again. I hope she comes during ricing; we can use her help in the
Jim Denomie, noted Ojibwe artist, stopped in long
enough to help gather sap while gathering images of sugar bush. He brought friends and family on a one-day escape
from the city.
Sometimes, just for grins, I look at the "maple"
syrup in the store. Three percent? Ours is 100 percent and is made by a lot of human hands. Sugar bush has come
and gone again. The snow was hip-deep when we started and now we're walking on the leaves of last fall. Along the
way we have seen eagles and hawks, deer and a porcupine, and a lot of people. I like the sound of laughter in the
woods when the children are running from tree to tree collecting the gift.
QUESTION OF THE MONTH X. XXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXX XXX XX X? X. CANCELLED by a ruling
of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. An appeal to the ruling will be heard in June.
I was ready to go spearing again. The Federal Court
said we had treaty rights in the 1837 ceded territory.
The Reservation and the 1854 Authority were preparing
for the upcoming spearing season.
I went to a meeting at the Black Bear Hotel where
the information about the spearing season was presented to the people of Fond du Lac. I was impressed; a lot of
work had been done to prepare for our first legal use of the treaty rights. Our game wardens and biologists were
there to explain their roles in the upcoming harvest. The biologists talked about the right time to spear, according
to the water temperature. The game wardens showed maps and told of the coordinated law-enforcement plans. The game
wardens told us the Minnesota National Guard was standing by to back up local law enforcement. Jeez, I thought,
they got tanks and helicopters.
That very same afternoon we learned the Judge from
the 8th Circuit Appeals Court won't let Fonjalackers or the Bands from Wisconsin use their treaty rights. Mille
Lacs is the only Anishinaabeg Band that can gather food for ceremonial purposes. Still trying to divide us, I see.
I don't think the Appeals Court knows anything about ceremonial purposes. Further, I don't think they can tell
me when to have a ceremony.
The views expressed in this column belong to the
writer alone. They are not meant to represent this newspaper, the Fond du Lac Reservation, Fonjalackers, Judges,
game wardens, the 1854 Authority, the RBC, eagles and hawks, my neighbor, my cousin, Rathide, or my wife, Patricia.
Comments and questions can be sent to FDL Follies, PO Box 16, Sawyer, MN 55780-0016, or by e-mail at northrup@
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