Maple Syrup

A North American Tradition

Maple Syrup's Discovery

There are many stories and folktales on the way maple syrup was invented. One of the only facts we know for sure is that the Native Americans were the first people to try it. While there are no written records on the discovery of maple syrup, (that we know of,) there have been oral stories told around the sugaring fire that were said to have originally come from maple syrup's true discoverer. Below are two of the most popular stories.

The Iroquois Legend

There once was a great hunter named Woksis. One evening, in early March, right before he went to sleep, Woksis gently swung his axe into a maple tree. Woksis left for a three day hunt the next morning, taking his axe with him. The maple tree "cried" sappy tears into a container at the base of the tree while he was away. Woksis' wife found the container, and thinking it was water, used it to make a stew for her husband, when he returned. The container simmered all day, and of course became sweeter and sweeter still. When Woksis returned, he tried the amazing "stew," and let the rest of the village taste it too. From then on, the Iroquois people used the "tears" of the maple tree to flavor their stew.

The Eastern Woodlands Folktale

There once was a creature who could take the form of any living thing, and his name was Nanabush. On one particular day, when Nanabush arrived at his village, the fires were dead and the people were gone. The people had always loved the sweet maple tree syrup, so Nanabush ran to the woods. Every person and thing in the village, man, woman, child, horse, dog, and goldfish alike, were lying under the maple tree with their mouths wide open. They had given up an form of work and had grown fat and lazy because of the easiness of their work.

Nanabush decided to change their laborless ways. He transformed into a giant, and took all the river water and dumped it into the trees, making the syrup thin and watery. He said to the people, " You may have your precious syrup, but only when food and resource is scarce. You must boil the syrup to make it sweet over open fire. In the meantime, get back to your fires, your gardens, your cooking, and your cleaning."

The people obeyed the mighty Nanabush, and to this day, we must work hard all year to get our delicious reward of rich, sweet, syrup.