Maple Sugaring Legend – The Iroquois and the Fiesty Red Squirrels

March is a month of transition between winter and spring. It is also the time when maple trees produce sap that can be boiled down to make maple sugar. Native American communities called the full moon in March the worm moon because this was the time when worms came out of the ground and robins started to reappear. Another name for the moon in March is the Sap Moon because this is when the sap from maple trees begins to flow.

There is an Iroquois folktale that explains that Native Americans initially observed a red squirrel cutting into the tree bark with its teeth and later returning to lick the sap. An Iroquois youth observed this behavior and decided to use his knife to cut into the bark of a tree…thus discovering the maple tree’s sweet secret. ​

In a study in the 1990s, scientists observed red squirrels making chisel-like grooves in the bark of a maple tree. After making the grooves in the tree, the squirrels left the tree! They returned to the tree about 24 hours later and licked up the sap that remained on the tree. By this time the water in the sap had evaporated leaving behind a high concentration of maple sugar!

Don’t miss the Maple Sugar Festival at the Insititute for American Indian Studies on March 14 from 11 am – 3 pm. The Institute is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington CT.

About The Institute for American Indian Studies

Located on 15 acres of woodland acres the Institute For American Indian Studies preserves and educates through archeology, research, exhibitions, and programs. They have the 16th c. Algonquian Village, Award-Winning Wigwam Escape, and a museum with temporary and permanent displays of authentic artifacts from prehistory to the present that allows visitors to foster a new understanding of the world and the history and culture of Native Americans. The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road, Washington, CT.

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