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Maple tree tapping South High School in Minneapolis

"It's always been a life lesson to teach our future generations how hard our ancestors had it."

A group of South High students are learning everything from chemistry to culture with the help of Maple trees. It’s a lesson they fought for.

“We’re going to empty the sap bags,” explained south High student Ava Keezer-Dow, “Maple syrup came about at a time of need for our people.”

“A long time ago they would tap these trees. Those Ojibwe people, every year, they would just sit underneath those trees all day long, mouth open, and it would just drip pure syrup,” said Vincen Patton, an All Nations Social Studies teacher at South High.

“it’s what kept our people alive during harsh winters,” said Gloria Olmeda, a South High student.

“It started raining, melts the snow, and the tree roots take it and turn that syrup into sap,” said Patton.

“it just shows us how much harder we have to work for it,” said Keezer-Dow.

“It’s always been a life lesson to teach our future generations how hard our ancestors had it,” said Patton.

“Last year, at about this time, we discovered the maple syrup bags, and immediately stopped it, because it’s technically against the city ordinance,” said Ralph Sievert, the Forestry Director for the Minneapolis Parks and Rec Board.

People can tap their own trees, but it’s illegal to tap a Boulevard tree, which is a tree growing between a curb and sidewalk. The trees the South High students are boulevard trees around the high school.

“We were like we had to write letters to the Park and Rec board, and I remember saying this is important to us,” said Keezer-Dow.

“I think we learn a lot,” said Tille Turner, a South High student.

“We learn a lot about our traditional and cultural ways and how our ancestors did and survived out in the middle of winter,” said Minewa Burris, a South High student.

“We were very impressed,” said Sievert.

The students convinced Parks and Rec and reached a partnership to use the trees.

“We even looked at places where they may be able to plant a maple tree to perpetuate it long-term,” said Sievert.

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