History Lore – American Indian story of maple syrup

No one is exactly sure when the first maple sugar was made but the American Indians showed the new settlers in Vermont how to make it. It is believed one of the Northeastern woodland tribes like the Iroquois Nation near the New York border or the Shawnee who roamed the Ohio Valley first made maple sugar and syrup.

The Indians boiled the syrup down into maple sugar and carried it in their pouches while traveling. They showed the new settlers how to collect and process the syrup.

Below is a story passed down through time about maple syrup. How much of it is true we don’t know. It has become one of the stories of historical lore passed through time at campfires and new settlements

A story of Maple Syrup.

A young warrior and his wife had gone on an early spring hunting trip deep into the heart of what would later become Ohio woods. They had set up camp within a dense grove of American Beech and Sugar Maples and had just begun to settle down for the night.

Before going to bed, one of the last things the young warrior did was to strike his tomahawk into a tree next to their wigwam.

The next morning when the couple awoke, the warrior gathered up his hunting tools including his tomahawk from the tree. Then he set out for a day’s worth of hunting. His wife, on the other hand, stayed behind at the camp to finish some of her own work along with preparing the evening meal of venison stew.

Since she had no metal cooking pots, the wife had to cook the meal by using an age-old technique. She pulled out a hollowed wooden trough called a mokuk, placed some deer meat and vegetables within and looked around for a suitable source of water to fill up her mokuk. In the dense, dark Ohio woodland, water could be tough to find.

While she gazed around, she could not find a stream or creek, but she noticed plenty of water leaking from the tomahawk wound in the tree. Having nothing else to mix with her meat and vegetables, she added the water trickling from the tree into her mokuk. Since the woman could not place the mokuk on the fire, she spent the better part of the day heating fist-size stones, picking them up with a forked stick and tossing them into her makeshift pot full of stew. The warrior’s wife knew from experience that if she kept the rocks hot enough, the dirt and ashes would not stick to the rock and thus, ruin her stew.

By the time her husband arrived back for their evening meal, the woman felt she had done something incredibly wrong. The water in her stew was the brown color of tree bark! However, since it would take another few hours to cook a new meal, the couple decided to eat the vile-looking, brown stew the wife had made.

But much to their surprise and upon taking their first bite, the stew was not horrible at all. It was one of the sweetest tasting meals both had ever tasted! It did not take the warrior and his wife long to realize it was the sap from the maple tree creating the brown colored treat and although the tools of the trade have changed, the process of maple sugaring is still used today.

Maple syrup and Maple candy are a favorite of mine. Our area still produces a large amount of syrup and when you see the buckets hanging on trees you know it’s not long until spring.

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One response to “History Lore – American Indian story of maple syrup”

  1. Jim

    I heard this story many years ago around a campfire. We also made Maple syrup at our farm but had a Sugar Shack and even made candy. They are great memories. Jim

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