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Biindigen! Welcome Spring: Exploring the sacred cycle of Seasonal Rounds

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In Spring, before any harvesting or collecting is to take place our ancestors had ceremony. This ceremony expressed how happy and grateful we were able to gather again. Prayers, songs, and tobacco are shared to celebrate the renewal of life. The first harvest in the spring in many areas is the collecting of sweet water, or Maple Sap. Anishinaabek have a well-established system of collection and processing maple sap into syrup. Over several weeks, volunteers are tapping and collecting sap from the surrounding maple trees and maintaining the fire to turn the sap to syrup. This activity usually continues until the first thunderstorm in the spring, or when the trees begin to bud. Other ceremonies that may occur are those ceremonies of letting go. As the ice loosens its grip on the lakes and shores, so do we letting go of thoughts and feelings toward one another, allowing us to plant new thoughts of gratitude. Forgiveness allows us to move forward and see new growth within and around us allowing us to prosper for another season. While Maple Sugar activities continue, other forms of harvesting continue, such as that of migratory birds. The first sight of geese excites many and marks the beginning of a short period of time to get out and hunt geese and ducks. In modern times, the arrival, and signs of harvest, coordinated by nature conflicts with our everyday life, and not everyone is able to enjoy these activities. The harvest is only one part, the other is the processing and storage. After a successful goose hunt, there is the plucking, singeing, and cleaning of the birds. This is an arduous but necessary process to be able to keep the goose for future use. As the ice recedes and the waters open, we are greeted by smelts, that run in such abundance that you only need a dip net to gather your feed. Once the water temperature reaches a certain point the spawning of bigger fish begins. First the walleye, suckers, sturgeon, pike, rainbow trout and bass. With the fish spawning, it makes the harvest effective and efficient, allowing us to gather as much fish as we may need. As the fish are harvested, after it is caught, it is cleaned and smoked on makeshift racks and sometimes pounded into a powder, for storage and packing. This powder can be used in a soup at a future time. 

Foraging foods and medicines harvested in early spring is best as this growth has the highest mineral content and is most potent. Poplar and spruce buds, birch bark, horsetail, dandelion (leaves, roots, and flowers), Yarrow leaves, Cattail, and willow. There are many plants that provide medicinal benefits, it is best to sit with a knowledge keeper to gain these teachings. Foraging for foods such as leeks, Morels, asparagus, fiddleheads, cattails occur at this time as well and provide the gatherer many rewarding and tasty meals. As the ground softens and even gets messy, it marks a time to prepare our gardens. Time to turn the soil and if need be, add nutrients to increase the probability of a successful harvest. Many Anishinabek had prolific gardens that provided nutritious meals well into the winter. Elder Jim Dumont taught, as many of our elders do, that we, “the Anishinaabe is inseparable from the land, identity, sense of place and history is intimately related to the land. We originated here. The North American Indigenous person did not migrate from anywhere else, nor originate from any other peoples.” As Anishinaabe, we have a responsibility to carry on these ways.