The Storied Maple


Soil Factory, 2024


March is the season for maple syrup production in Upstate New York. Across the lands of the Gayog̱hó:nǫ́ people and beyond, maple trees begin moving stores of starch through the tree's body, waking up and preparing energetically for spring, for leaves, for photosynthesis and for the energy production of another year. A culinary experience uniquely indigenous to this land, maple syrup is also a cultural experience deeply rooted in indigenous knowledge. The first sugar of spring, this sap is a lifeblood for not just the maples, but also for human and animal beings alike at the end of long and cold winters. Broken branches and tapped bark offer a sweet liquid to keep the maple’s kin alive in the hardest of months.

March is also the season for industrialized maple syrup production: a good, commodity, or resource in the settler state. Across the region, maple trees will be linked together in early March with miles of blue tubing, a kind of industrialized draining, which pulls the sweet sap from the tree to tanks where processes of reverse osmosis remove water leaving a concentrated syrup. Bottled in plastic and placed on shelving under fluorescent lives, the gift of the maple, or even who she is, is fully obfuscated during a pancake breakfast.

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