Native people used their extensive knowledge of the forest to obtain food, such as berries, roots, nuts, and leaves for tea. And the sap they obtained from maple trees was made into granulated sugar, syrup, and gum sugar. It was used as a condiment on fish and other foods.

How did they obtain maple sugar?

(Click on photo for caption)

Many plants in the forest had medicinal properties. Specialists in Native communities viewed these plants as gifts from spirit beings. For this reason, healers left offerings to the spirits of the plants when they collected them. This knowledge of the use of plants in healing had been developed through generations of experimentation and study. Non-native settlers made use of some of the Native treatments. There were hundreds of remedies applied as salves and incense or taken orally. Today plants still are collected for medicinal purposes.

Trees like the birch and the cedar were considered sacred because in origin stories they were gifts from spirit being protectors. Until the early to mid-twentieth century, Native peoples’ technology was based largely on wood, bark and plant fiber. With these materials they made houses or wigwams, canoes and dugout boats, containers, bags, twine, and mats, among other things. Today, this woodcraft still is practiced and is considered by many Native peoples as an expression and manifestation of identity.

Listen to a tribal elder from the little traverse bay band of odawa explain how to strip bark from the birch tree Help

3:26 mi.

Video Transcript

  • Share/Save/Bookmark