Each year to mark the beginning of spring, the Language & Culture Department at the lead of our Zisbakwet Ogema (Sugar Chief),starts its sugar bushing season. The beginning of the sugarbush season is dependent on several variables, the most important is the fluctuation of temperatures between night and day. As mother nature is unpredictable, so are the dates of our sugar bushing season. Starting anywhere from mid-February to mid-March.
To signify the start of the sugarbush season, as a way of honoring the maple trees and giving thanks for to the creator for the gifts it provides us, the Zisbakwet Ogema leads us through an maple tapping ceremony. Once the ceremony is complete, we can then place the taps in the trees and begin the sugaring season.
Keep an eye on the website and Facebook page for updates on the Sugarbush and opportunities to volunteer and get involved!
Maple Feast & Sugarbush Tours
For our ancestors, thanksgiving feasts were important ceremonies which took place throughout the seasonal year. The traditional practice of giving thanks through a community feast was always done at the end of each harvest season such as rice harvesting time, green corn harvest, spring fish runs, strawberry, blueberry, huckleberry and of course the harvest of maple sugar. Our community gatherings are special celebrations of the gifts which our relatives, the plants and animals, provided each season. It was a way of honoring and giving thanks for the life-sustaining foods and medicines provided for the people, and to recognize and maintain balance with the rest of creation.
In honor and practice of those traditions we host an annual Maple Feast and Sugarbush tours. We come together in fellowship, partake in some delicious foods and follow it all up with tours and explanation of the maple sugaring process led by our tribes Zisbakwet Ogema, Junsun Bush.
Wild Rice Revitalization, Teachings & Workshops
Mnomen is a gift given to the neshnabé from creator. It was the centerpiece of our people’s nutrition and sustenance. Wild rice is a food that is unique to our people. We use it in our daily lives, ceremonies and thanksgiving feasts. The significance of Mnomen comes from our people’s migration story. Thousands of years ago, the neshnabé lived on the east coastline of Turtle Island (North America). They were visited by eight prophets and were given seven prophecies to follow. The third of these prophecies instructed the neshnabé to travel westward until they found a place where “food grows on the water”. When they arrived in the Great Lakes Region, they discovered vast beds of wild rice. This is the area our people have lived and thrived ever since, because of Mnomen.
Prior to the start of the mnomen harvesting, representatives from the Language & Culture and Environmental Departments travel north to the communities of the Little River Band of Ottawa and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Mount Pleasant to offer a bundles and ask permission to harvest Mnomen in their respective territories. Once and if the bundles are accepted, we have permission to harvest the mnomen from these areas. Mnomen harvesting season for that area usually happens in either the month of September or October.
In addition to the harvest, we host workshops to provide cultural teachings and opportunities to make ricing and processing equipment and to participate in hands-on processing of the wildrice (processing is dependent on the availability of resources).
Finally, we make effort to revitalize this precious resource of wild rice by collaborating with the Tribe's Environmental Department to reseed lake bodies and bring this “food that grows on the water” back to the waterbodies in our area.
Tribal Gardening Program
This season our garden is focused on the the three sisters, corn, beans and squash.
We call these plants the three sisters because of the way they take care of each other. The corn creates a strong structure for the beans to grow on. The beans enrich the soil with nitrogen for both the corn and the squash. The squash protects the beans and corn by providing shade over the soil and warding off animals that would eat the crop with its thorns. The three plants work together to provide for each other and grow together. This technique is called companion planting. Our garden is just a start. As we grow the food sovereignty program our garden intends to grow. Look to the tribal Facebook page and website for updates on the garden, its harvest and any dates for a harvest celebration, in the late fall.
Seedbank & Seedsaving
The Language & Culture Department is working to provide guidelines and policy on seed saving, inventorying, gifting and exchanging of the Tribe's seeds.