Native American Legends
How maple sugar came
A Salteaux Legend
After Nanahboozhoo had given the Wild Roses their thorns, he wandered
about the world playing pranks on the Little People of Darkness,
so that they determined to be revenged on him and kill his old Grandmother
Nokomis. Nanahboozhoo loved his grandmother dearly, and when he
knew that the Little People wished to hurt her, he took Nokomis
upon his strong back, and flew away with her to a forest.
Wonderful was the forest, for it was in the Autumn of the year,
and the Maple Trees were all yellow, green, and crimson. From a
distance they looked like a great fire. It happened that the Little
People followed after Nanahboozhoo, and when they saw the bright
colors of the Maples, through the haze of Indian Summer, they thought
the whole world was in flames, and turned back and hid in their
Nanahboozhoo was so pleased with the beautiful Maples for having
saved his grandmother from the Little People that he decided to
live among the trees, and he made old Nokomis a wigwam of their
One day, some Indians came seeking Nanahboozhoo to ask for help.
They found him in his grandmother's wigwam among the yellow, green,
and crimson Maples, where he received them kindly.
"O Nanahboozhoo," said they, "the Indians of the
Far South have a delicious sweet thing they call Sugar, and we have
nothing of the kind. We sent runners with gifts to the South to
get an abundance of Sugar for our people; but some of the runners
were killed and others wounded. Tell us, therefore, O Nanahboozhoo,
how we may make Sugar for ourselves."
At first Nanahboozhoo was greatly puzzled, for he had been in the
South land and knew how hard it was to make Sugar. But old Nokomis,
when she heard what the Indians asked, added her pleadings to theirs,
for she too had tasted Sugar and longed for more. Of course Nanahboozhoo
could not refuse to help, so he thought a while, and said:-
"Since the beautiful Maples were so good to Nokomis, henceforth
in the Spring of the year they shall give the Indians sweet sap.
And when the sap is boiled down thick and delicious, it will cool
and harden into Sugar."
Then Nanahboozhoo gave the Indians a bucket made of Birch bark,
and a stone tapping-gouge with which to make holes in the tree-trunks;
and he shaped for them some Cedar spiles or little spouts, to put
in the holes, and through which the sap might run from the trees
into buckets. He told them, too, that they must build great fireplaces
in the woods near the Maple groves, and when the buckets were full
of sap, they must pour it into their kettles, and boil it down.
And the amount of Sugar they might boil each Spring would depend
on the number of Cedar spiles and Birch bark buckets they made during
And every Springtime since, when the Frost is going out of the
ground and the Arbutus blossoms under the snow, the sweet sap mounts
through the trunks of the Maple Trees, and the Northern Indians
gather the sap, and say, "This is the way Nanahboozhoo taught
us to make Maple-Sugar!"
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