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Ininatig's Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugarmaking

by Laura Waterman Wittstock

Other authors: Michael Dorris (Foreword), Dale Kakkak (Photographer)

Series: We Are Still Here: Native Americans Today

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Describes how Indians have relied on the sugar maple tree for food and tells how an Anishinabe Indian in Minnesota continues his people's traditions by teaching students to tap the trees and make maple sugar.

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One of a number of entries in the We Are Still Here: Native Americans Today series, which seems to be a precursor of the similar My World: Young Native Americans Today series, Ininatig's Gift of Sugar is a picture-book examination of the Anishinaabe traditions concerning sugaring. From the opening folktale, in which Ininatig - the "tree man" - gives his sap to save a starving family, through the in-depth examination of the sugaring process (in which maple sap is made into maple syrup, maple sugar and maple candy) at the sugar-bush camp of Anishinaabe elder "Porky" White, the book is immensely informative.

I particularly liked the fact that, much like the My World: Young Native Americans Today titles, Ininatig's Gift of Sugar was written and photographed by Native Americans themselves, as so many books about America's indigenous peoples are written by outsiders, and contain misinformation. Author Laura Waterman Wittstock is an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation in New York, while photographer Dale Kakkak belongs to the Menominee Nation. Both text and image provides a realistic, contemporary portrait of native people - something that, as the series name implies, must have been a deliberate aim of the creators - as well as an engaging look at sugaring. Recommended to young readers with an interest in this process, or in the Anishinaabe people. ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | Apr 9, 2013 |
With an engaging, informative text and spectacular photographs, Ininatig's Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugarmaking provides a step-by-step description of traditional Anishinaabe sugarmaking (not only of the sugaring process itself, but also of the traditions, the culture of Anishinaabe sugarmaking, the knowledge passed down from generation to generation). Even though the narrative is primarily informative and non-fictional, it does seem to draw you in emotionally; you feel like an active participant, and not just a passive observer.

Anishinaabe elder "Porky" White's knowledge of the trees, of the weather, and his respect for and appreciation of the maple trees, of nature is impressive. He knows all of his trees, when it is the right time to start the sugaring process (the signs of early spring). Porky also seems to regard his maple trees not so much as resources to be exploited, but as actual partners; I think that my favourite part of is when Porky and a few of his sugaring companions go into the woods to thank the maple trees, thanking Ininatig (man tree) for sharing its bounty.

Porky White and his sugaring partner Madeline Moose do not just engage in yearly sugaring at Porky's sugarbush, they also teach traditional Anishinaabe sugarmaking to urban children, who come to the sugarbush to spend time observing the sugaring process, as well as working (helping out) in the sugarbush. These children are not only being taught how to extract sap from the maple trees and turn that sap into delicious maple syrup or maple sugar; they are also learning respect for the land, respect for ones' elders, respect for and appreciation of Native American culture and traditions.

Like my LT friend Abigail, one of the aspects of Ininatig's Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugarmaking that I particularly appreciate is the fact that both the text and the accompanying photographs have been created, rendered by Native Americans (author Larua Waterman Wittstock is a member of the Seneca Nation of New York, while photographer Dale Kakkak is a member of the Menominee Nation); so many books about Native American and First Nations culture and traditions are written by outsiders and often do contain misinformation.

Although the text, the narrative reads easily, it is also quite textually dense and involved, thus younger children might lose focus and become distracted. I would therefore recommend this book to children above the ages of six or seven. And there really is no upper limit; Ininatig's Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native American Sugarmaking is informative and engaging for adults as well. ( )
  gundulabaehre | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laura Waterman Wittstockprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dorris, MichaelForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kakkak, DalePhotographersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Describes how Indians have relied on the sugar maple tree for food and tells how an Anishinabe Indian in Minnesota continues his people's traditions by teaching students to tap the trees and make maple sugar.

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