High school students learn to tap trees

1 year ago

LITTLETON, Maine — A group of about 25 students from around the greater Houlton area converged Thursday, March 23, on a grove of maple trees on the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Reservation to learn about the process of tapping trees.

Featuring a mixture of Maliseet and Mi’kmaq students, the group learned all about the production of maple syrup, just in time for the annual Maine Maple Sunday, held March 25-26 throughout Aroostook County.

“We showed the students almost all aspects of the maple syrup process, from identifying trees and figuring out how many taps per tree, to evaporating the sap down to near syrup,” explained Isaac St. John, tribal historic preservation officer. “We didn’t get to see the finishing steps of the syrup, but were able to hand out previously made syrup.”

Isaac St. John (top) and Kendyl Reis, tribal historic preservations officers for the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and Mi’kmaq Nation respectively, show how to properly tap a tree to collect maple syrup. (Courtesy Joseph Cyr/Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians)

Armed with rustic hammers and spikes, the students witnessed how Native Americans would have tapped maple trees ages ago. St. John said the environmental camp is held annually to teach students about the cultural practice of making syrup, which originated with the North Eastern Tribes. 

“Throughout the camp, we discussed both the science side, sugar percentages in the sap, how many taps per tree and also including cultural stories and discussing how our ancestors would have done it,” he explained.

Joining St. John for the camp was Kendyl Reis, tribal historic preservation officer for the Mi’kmaq Nation. “The goal of the maple syrup camp was to show Wabanaki youth what their ancestors have been doing since time immemorial,” she said.