cropped-Amerindiens-histoire-erable.jpgA custom inherited from the Amerindian peoples

Long before the arrival of European settlers in North America, Native American tribes in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States would have discovered how to collect sap from maple trees and turn it into maple syrup.

Some say that the dogs of the Amerindians, by their behavior, would have put the chip in the ear of their masters: a branch had broken and the dogs were jostling around to lick the sap that was flowing, and this is how the Amerindians had the idea of tasting it.

Another version says that a little squirrel climbed up a tree trunk and bit a branch... and began to drink. A Native American at the bottom of the tree looked at him and wondered why, since a fresh water source was flowing nearby. He imitated the squirrel by making a slit with his knife... what a surprise! Until then, his tribe had only found sugar in wild fruits. And here was a tree crying sugar in crystal tears. Moreover, he had just discovered a remedy against scurvy, which his people often suffered from in the spring. All this because he had watched and imitated a squirrel quenching his thirst with the sap of a maple tree...


On an early spring day, while the wind was still chilly, an old Micmac woman went to collect sap from the maple trees and, as it tasted better warm, she put some in a pot and placed it over her teepee fire. Tired, she lay down to rest. When she woke up, it was already evening. In the pot, she found a golden, clear, sweet syrup.


The chief took his tomahawk from the maple tree in which he had stuck it the day before. As the sun rose into the sky, the sap began to flow. His wife tasted it and thought it was good. She used it to cook the meat, so she didn't have to go to the spring to get water. The sweet taste and the sweet smell were very appreciated by the chef. He called the syrup in which the meat was boiled Sinzibuckwud, an Algonquin word meaning "from the trees".


On a cold and prickly morning long ago, an Iroquois chief named Woksis came out of his hut. Since he had to go hunting, he removed his tomahawk from the maple tree in which he had stuck it the night before. The tomahawk had made a deep gash in the tree, but Woksis did not notice. He went hunting. A birch bark container lay at the foot of the maple tree. Drop by drop, sap that looked like water flowed out of the cut in the trunk of the maple tree and filled the container. The next day, Woksis' wife noticed that the container was full. Thinking that the colorless sap was water, she used it to make a venison stew. That evening, at supper, Woksis smiled and said to his wife, "This stew is delicious. It has a sweet taste.". Not understanding, the woman dipped her finger in the stew that had been simmering all afternoon. Woksis was right: the stew was sweet. Maple syrup had just been discovered!


The legend of Nokomis (The earth)

This legend tells us that Nokomis would have been the first to pierce holes in the trunk of maple trees and to collect maple syrup directly. Manabush, realizing that this sap was a ready-to-eat syrup, went to his grandmother and told her:

"Grandmother, it is not good for trees to produce sugar so easily. If men can gather sugar so effortlessly, they will soon become lazy. We must try to make them work. Before they can taste this exquisite syrup, it would be good if men were obliged to split wood and spend nights watching the syrup cook."

He said no more, but fearing that Nokomis would be indifferent to his words and that she would fail to take measures to prevent men from becoming lazy, he climbed to the top of a maple tree with a vessel filled with water and poured the contents inside the tree, thus dissolving the sugar that was in the maple."

Since then, still according to the legend, instead of a thick syrup, the sap contains 1% to 2% of sugar, and, to obtain sugar, it is now necessary to work.

God Nanabozho

A long time ago, pure syrup, such as that used for pancakes, flowed from the maple trees. When the god Nanabozho tasted it, he found it so good that he thought that the inhabitants of the Earth would not appreciate this syrup if they could get it so easily. So Nanabozho added water to the thick syrup provided by the tree, so much water that the liquid ended up looking like sugar water. He then hid this sap deep inside the tree. Since that time, men have had to work hard to obtain maple syrup.


The arrival of the first settlers and maple syrup

Temps-des-sucres-960x640.jpgFrom the very first days of the colony, it was the Amerindians who taught our ancestors to cut the trunk of the tree in early spring, collect the sap and boil it. This practice was quickly adopted by the colonists, for whom syrup was an important source of sugar and energy in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The first settlers boiled maple sap in iron cauldrons. Using rudimentary shelters to protect themselves, they would "run" the sugars. It was for them, as it is for us today, a time of rejoicing that signified the end of winter and the arrival of spring.

Source: Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup