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Native American Legends

The Sugar Maple (Axsìnamìnshi)

An American Indian Legend - Nation Unknown

Long ago, Axsìnamìnshi, the Sugar Maple, was suffering from an intense itching caused by grubs and beetles burrowing beneath his bark. Though he had many arms and fingers, he could not scratch himself. The itching became unbearable, and all that he could do was to writhe in discomfort and torment. He could do nothing by himself to relieve his suffering!

Finally, unable to bear the itching any longer, he called out to the squirrels, porcupines, and beavers to help him, but they were concerned only with their own affairs and they did not offer any help. All they did was to offer their sympathy.

Next, Sugar Maple called to the birds. They too, felt sorry for him, but could do nothing.

Then, Papa'xes, Woodpecker, came along, and he said he could help. So, he brought his cousins, Ulikwàn, Flicker; and Titàs, the Downy Woodpecker. All of them worked very hard and finally were able to pick up every pest from Sugar Maple's bark, and his itching stopped! What a relief! Axsìnamìnshi thanked Woodpecker and his cousins most happily, and they thanked Sugar Maple for the good meal of grubs and beetles.

Years later, Papa'xes was in distress. Not knowing what to do, he at last came to Axsìnamìnshi, who he hadn't seen in a long time, and he related a sad story to him. Due to a long period without rain, Papa'xes was dying of thirst, and he asked Sugar Maple if he might help.

Sugar Maple, remembering the help he had received from Woodpecker, told him, "Go to my trunk and drill some holes and they will fill up with sap."

Woodpecker flew down and pecked away at the trunk, making many holes. The holes filled up with sap, and Woodpecker drank and joyfully slaked his thirst. Woodpeckers have been drinking from trees ever since.

It was from the Woodpecker, that our Lenape'wak learned that trees give sap and can be tapped.

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