Iskigamizigan, a sugar harvesting camp, in Wisconsin. Photo: Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission

Mary Annette Pember: It's sugar bush time across Ojibwe country

It's Iskigamizigan season in Ojibwe country and independent journalist Mary Annette Pember is on the Bad River Reservation as the Maday family harvests syrup from maple trees in Wisconsin:
It’s sugar bush time in Ojibwe country, which means my five-year-old cousin, Howie, is busy. He is the official taste tester at the Maday family sugar bush, or Iskigamizigan. Although his office is self-appointed, he takes his duties seriously.

“Yes, Howie has to taste the sap from every tree, and we tap about 200 maple trees,“ laughed Melvin Maday, Howie’s grandpa.

Iskigamizigan time begins at the first signs of spring, when daytime temperatures rise above 32 degrees, allowing trees to generate the flow of sap. Maday and his family drill small holes about two inches deep into the trees and attach taps that allow the sap to flow into bags placed underneath. The sap is then boiled for several hours into syrup. According to Melvin, its takes about 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.

The Madays, who live on the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation in Wisconsin, make 60 to 70 gallons of syrup per year. Iskigamizigan season lasts from four to six weeks, depending on the weather. Once the trees begin to bud, it’s time to stop tapping, according to Melvin, otherwise the resulting syrup will be bitter.

Read More on the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: Sugar Bush Time in Ojibwe Country (Indian Country Media Network 3/18)

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