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Boreal Community Media

Talking to trees, the cool April air, and frogs: Michelle Defoe and her three daughters share the ancient Ojibwe tradition of tapping maple trees for syrup.

May 16, 2022 09:37AM ● By Content Editor
Michelle Defoe, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, stands near her sugarbush camp in northern Minnesota. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

By Sheila Mulrooney Eldred - May 15, 2022 - Sahan Journal


Native people have sweetened food with maple sugar for generations. The month of April is known as “Iskigamizige-giizis” in Anishinaabemowin, the language spoken by the Ojibwe or Anishinaabe people. That means, boiling maple sap and processing it into syrup or sugar. 

Sahan Journal photojournalist Jaida Grey Eagle caught up last month with Michelle Defoe, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, and her three daughters: Max, age 16; Kyla, age 10, and Nova, age 8. They tapped four trees in a sugarbush–a grouping of sugar maples–near Duluth, and took pictures of the process. This is Defoe’s story, edited for length and clarity, in her own words: The tree is giving you medicine


To see the full story, follow this link to the Sahan Journal website.