Driving through the Litchfield Hills in March you can’t help but notice the network of plastic tubes and buckets that collect sap from maple trees. The sugaring off process resulting in the golden deliciousness we know as maple syrup has a long history in New England. The timing for sugaring is critical and only happens once a year because when the maple trees start to bud, the sap becomes bitter. Today collecting and boiling down sap is a labor-intensive process even with all the advantages of modern technology. Native Americans were experts at collecting the sap and boiling it down using the most basic techniques and materials collected from the environment that they lived in. They found many uses for maple syrup from making medicine taste better and sweetening food to using it as a preservative.
Historic records indicate that the collecting and processing of maple sap was a social as well as a working occasion. Women would tap the trees; men would cut the wood for the fire needed to boil the sap, and children tended to the sap as it boiled. The Maple Sugar Festival at the Institute for American Indian Studies located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington, Connecticut is the perfect event for learning, socializing, and celebrating maple sugar as the first sign of spring. The Maple Sugar Festival will be held this year on March 9 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Institute. Visitors are invited to join the staff along with nationally recognized Primitive Technologists, Jeff and Judy Kalin in the outdoor Algonquian Village for an afternoon celebrating the gift of maple syrup.
The Kalins will demonstrate the traditional technique of collecting sap using only stone and wooden tools. Stone was used because pottery or wood containers alone would not have been able to withstand the direct heat. The key to how water was evaporated from the sap using only natural means will be a highlight of the Kalin’s demonstration. They will also talk about the importance of maple sugar to the diet of Native Americans as well as its usefulness as an item of trade.
An added sweet bonus of this event is the “made from scratch” pancakes served up with local maple syrup, coffee, and orange juice. The Maple Syrup Demonstration is noon – 3 pm., the Pancake Brunch is 11 am – 2 pm and children’s activities are 11:30 am – 2:30 pm. The cost is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, children are $10 and members of the museum $5.
About Primitive Technologies
PTI has built nearly 200 aboriginal structures both free standing and congregated in villages using only the tools and practices of the time such as stone axes, flaked hand tools, and fire. In his work, Jeff Kalin, owner of PTI uses only primitive tools that he has made himself.
PTI has created the village at the American Indian Archeological Institute in the style of the Eastern Woodland Indians. This reconstructed village was created to look, as it would have in the 16th century prior to European contact. There are several wigwams and a longhouse in the village. The structures are covered in thatch or bark.
Mr. Kalin is recognized as an expert in stone tool replication and is a consultant to museum curators and archeologists in the analysis of artifacts. He has constructed prehistoric sets for filmmakers and his wood-fired replica pottery hand built from river clay is in private and public collections
About The Institute for American Indian Studies
The Institute for American Indian Studies preserves and educates through discovery and creativity the diverse traditions, vitality, and knowledge of Native American cultures. Through archaeology, the IAIS is able to build new understandings of the world and history of Native Americans, the focus is on stewardship and preservation. This is achieved through workshops, special events, and education for students of all ages.
Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS has an outdoor Three Sisters and Healing Plants Gardens as well as a replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village. Inside the museum, authentic artifacts are displayed in permanent, semi-permanent and temporary exhibits from prehistory to the present that allows visitors a walk through time.
The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut and can be reached online or by calling 860-868-0518.