Native American Legends
Gluskabe Changes Maple Syrup
An Abenaki Legend
Long ago, the Creator made and gave many gifts to man to help him
during his life. The Creator made the lives of the Abenaki People
very good, with plenty of food to gather, grow, and hunt. The Maple
tree at that time was one of these very wonderful and special gifts
from the Creator. The sap was as thick and sweet as honey. All you
had to do was to break the end off of a branch and the syrup would
In these days Gluskabe would go from native village to village
to keep an eye on the People for the Creator. One day Gluskabe came
to an abandoned village. The village was in disrepair, the fields
were over-grown, and the fires had gone cold. He wondered what had
happened to the People.
He looked around and around, until he heard a strange sound. As
he went towards the sound he could tell that it was the sound of
many people moaning. The moaning did not sound like people in pain
but more like the sound of contentment. As he got closer he saw
a large stand of beautiful maple trees. As he got closer still he
saw that all the people were lying on their backs under the trees
with the end of a branch broken off and dripping maple syrup into
The maple syrup had fattened them up so much and made them so lazy
that they could barely move. Gluskabe told them to get up and go
back to their village to re-kindle the fires and to repair the village.
But the people did not listen. They told him that they were content
to lie there and to enjoy the maple syrup.
When Gluskabe reported this to the Creator, it was decided that
it was again time that man needed another lesson to understand the
Creator's ways. The Creator instructed Gluskabe to fill the maple
trees with water. So Gluskabe made a large bucket from birch bark
and went to the river to get water. He added water, and added more
water until the sap was that like water. Some say he added a measure
of water for each day between moons, or nearly 30 times what it
was as thick syrup. After a while the People began to get up because
the sap was no longer so thick and sweet.
They asked Gluskabe "where has our sweet drink gone?"
He told them that this is the way it will be from now on. Gluskabe
told them that if they wanted the syrup again that they would have
to work hard to get it. The sap would flow sweet only once a year
before the new year of spring.
The People were shown that making syrup would take much work. Birch
bark buckets would need to be made to collect the sap. Wood would
be needed to be gathered to make fires to heat rocks, and the rocks
would be needed to be put into the sap to boil the water out to
make the thick sweet syrup that they once were so fond of. He also
told them that they could get the sap for only a short time each
year so that they would remember the error of their ways.
And so it is still to this day, each spring the Abenaki people
remember Gluskabe's lesson in honoring Creator's gifts and work
hard to gather the maple syrup they love so much. Nialach!
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