The second feature of our KARHÁKON: In the Woods” collection pays homage to the resilient Sugar Maple stands of the eastern woodlands.
Wáhta (WÚH-tuh) in the Mohawk language, has become synonymous with Canada worldwide. The multi-coloured jewel of the autumn draws awe-inspired audiences the world over to the woods’ edge, and has been a producer of sugar maple for Indigenous peoples of North America since time immemorial. To the Mohawk people; the Sugar Maple is referred to as the Leader of the Trees. On our ceremonial calendar it serves as a celebration of the New Year as its sap is the first harvest of the growing season. The hard wood fashions strong tools and burns hot on the coldest nights. It is a role model for the medicine people who look to its far-reaching sheltering canopy as a reminder to be a physical & spiritual support for the people.
In one story about the discovery of Maple sap; a young boy is traversing the woods in hopes of finding food to feed his starving village after a hard winter. Looking to the animals for guidance; he noticed the birds & squirrels grew fat and energetic off of a strange water bursting from a fresh notch in a nearby tree. After tasting the sweet water, the young boy took some home to nourish his people. Another story tells us that a young woman who kept her water basket under a nearby tree, found it full of water one day and took it home to cook her meat. To her family’s amazement the water gave their meat a brilliant sweet taste. This is how one family discovered that boiling maple water created a fine syrup for their meal.