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Students Learn Ancient Art of Making Maple SugarSubmitted: 05/10/2013
Story By Kailey Burton


Photos By Kailey Burton

LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Centuries ago, the Native Ojibwe tribes sometimes had to rely on maple trees to survive the winter. Making sugar is an ancient art passed down through the generations. Learning this skill can teach more than you might think.

"Patience is something that's in short demand with our young people today. Everything is done as fast as we can get it done... We have 4G phones, everything is as fast as we can do it. But our culture teaches us to be patient," said Wayne Valliere, a language and culture instructor at Lac du Flambeau School.

That lesson is echoed in the slow and steady drip of the sap into a bucket. Slowly but surely the sap runs from the trees. It takes patience as much as knowledge to turn that sap into sugar. Middle school students in the culture program at Lac du Flambeau's school are learning the basics of an old tradition.

"Me and Max are the two youngest ones in Flambeau that know how to make maple sugar," said 7th grader Dallas Hart, "It's something I always wanted to try…. I'd like to do it every year so I can have some maple sugar, and give some to the elders."

"This is a piece of our history," said a language and culture instructor Greg Johnson, "By giving this gift back to our youth, it's not only showing Ojibwe sustainability, but we're also teaching them about the environment,"

"There's also science and mathematics," adds Valliere, "We incorporate that into our culture…That's how our culture stays alive, it's living... It's not put on a CD-ROM and left on some dusty shelf in some library. Our culture is alive and well in Waswagoning, and it lives in our young people as you can see."

In the middle of the sweet steam from the maple sap, are lessons on the delicate balance of nature. Maple sugar once kept the Ojibwe alive in the leanest time of year. Like the environment, making sugar requires careful attention.

"If we burn it, it'll taste like burnt sugar and we won't want that," says Max, "Cause if we burn it there's no going back."

"We are planting the seed of positive identity in our young people," says Valliere, "They're learning their language, they're learning their history, they're learning what their ancestors did 500 years ago, as well as 100 years ago, as well as 50 years ago."

Today the Anishinaabe process for making sugar has evolved with the times. A propane tank brings the thickened sap to a solid in under an hour. Still this modern convenience doesn't spare them much of the hard work along the way.

"They hauled a lot of firewood out of the woods, they worked very hard... They were quite tired at the end of the day. So was I and so was Greg! And we kept going. Because the sugar waits for no one. It's on grandmother earth's terms."

"I did not know how the processes went before I started sugaring…. and now that I do, I can probably do it by myself," said Max.

"We know that the footprint that we're leaving as educators is a good one," says Valliere, "So that our ancestors that left that by the road for us, they're happy. They're happy today because the footprint we're leaving is a good one."


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 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 12/09/2016

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:

The lakes are expected to freeze soon, and many people are anxious to get out on the ice. However there are things you should keep in mind when heading out on the frozen lakes. Tonight we talk to a DNR warden about tips for staying safe on the ice.

A Rhinelander elementary school will be purchasing $2,000 worth of chrome books. We'll tell you how the students earned the funding.

We'll show you how a Woodruff company decorated the Governor's Mansion in Madison.

And tonight on Friday Night Blitz we'll bring you scores from high school games all across North Central Wisconsin as well as highlights from the following basketball games:

Boys:

Antigo vs. Lakeland

Crandon vs. Tomahawk

D.C. Everest vs. Merrill


Girls:

Laona/Wabeno vs. Crandon

That will be tonight on Friday Night Blitz at the end of Newswatch 12 at 10.


We'll bring you the details on these stories and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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"Eurasian watermilfoil is considered a perennial. However, I consider it an evergreen. A lot of people do," said Oneida County AIS Coordinator Stephanie Boismenue. "The reason being is it's winter-hardy. It's capable to live and grow underneath the ice."

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The man behind the apron is Dustin Chronister, known as "The Flexible Baker" on the social media platform, Instagram.

Chronister has over 30,000 followers from all over the world.

Chronister posts photos of his healthy treats, then the likes and followers flood in.

"It is super humbling because I never expected it, but it's refreshing," said Chronister.

Chronister is a competitive weight lifter.

To maintain a certain weight, he knew he couldn't eat his favorite traditional desserts.

Chronister decided to create recipes using alternative ingredients like adding protein and sugar substitutes.

Many of his recipes are less than 100 calories.

"I had to figure how to enjoy those sweets and maintain that healthy lifestyle. Then this was born. I just wanted to have my cake and eat it too, and kept it rolling after that," said Chronister.

Chronister recently wrote a second e-book with all his healthy recipes, so he continues to post pictures on Instagram every day.

He reminds people to be "flexible" and find balance in their diets.

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It's an accomplishment that he never thought was possible.

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