A Mohawk Legend:
The Origins of Maple Syrup and Sugar


Long ago, when human beings were new in the eastern part of Turtle Island, they barely lived through the long winters, their bodies and spirits weakened by the cold and dark. Though they worked to gather and preserve enough food for the winter it was not enough to keep them well and strong. The Creator saw the sadness of the people so he decided to ask the tree nation if there was something which could be done to restore their happiness. The leader of the trees, the maple, offered to give its blood to the people so they may be restored to good health. So it was that at the end of the winter months the sap flowed freely from the maple.

The people would have to make offerings to the maples, tap its sap and then work to make it into syrup and then sugar. By doing so they would come to appreciate this great gift.

Since that time the Mohawks watch the maples and when they notice the sap is flowing during the last weeks of winter they will gather at the longhouse to celebrate this great gift which renews their bodies and lifts their spirits. In Mohawk, maple sap/syrup is called wahta ohses. The people are glad when this happens for they know spring is returning to the earth as the eldest brother (the sun) brings the warmer days.

By Doug George-Kanentiio | Abridged from News from Indian Country May 2011