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2012 Snow Snake & Maple Gathering

December 12, 2011
Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe

N8hicanak

Kwai Kwai!  This year’s Snowsnake Games will be held at Nulhegan’s late-winter “Maple Gathering”.  The Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe (W8banakiak wji’N8hican Odana) invites you to join us in celebrating the age-old Abenaki custom of Maple Sugaring, while at the same time, we will host the 2012 Snowsnake games for Abenakis, Seven Nations, and our friends March 10th, 2012 at Nulheganaki on Whiting Lane in Brownington, VT, beginning at 11:00am.

Join us for a late-winter gathering of Snow Snake games, maple sugaring activities, and the best potluck food in Abenaki country.  All are welcome to join in the festivities or just come along for the socializing, drumming, and singing.  Bring a dish, bring the kids…, and remember to dress appropriately. The Snow Snake track will be easily accessible and well prepared, and we’ll have several snow snakes available if you do not have one.
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Snow Snake Nulhegan Abenaki

Snow Snake Game

Snow Snake (Pson’ilakwa)

The competitive, challenging, and fun game of Snow Snake has been part of Native North American culture for hundreds of years.  The game is typically played by four teams, or “Corners,” of men (or boys) and each team is allowed four throws per round.  Team members throw the snake down a trough about 5″ deep, made of snow.  On the thrower’s end, the trough is built up to 32″ in height.  It gradually declines until it is running along the ground.  Whoever makes the longest throw gets two points.  The person with the second longest throw receives one point.

Snowsnake track

Throws have been recorded as traveling more than 1 mile in less than three minutes, and at speeds clocked by Sports Illustrated as reaching 108 miles per hour in the first mile.  The team that gets to the set number of points first – normally 7 or 10 – wins.  There is also another version of the game that uses a pin on a short track.  The team that achieves the set number of points by getting their snakes closest to, without passing the pin, wins.

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Nulhegan Abenaki Maple

Boiling Maple Sap into Kettle Syrup

Maple Sugaring (Sokalikaw8kan)

Our Abenaki ancestors were among the first people known to have produced maple syrup and maple sugar.  According to oral traditions and archaeological evidence, maple sap (sokalebial) was being processed into sugar (sen8mozi) long before Europeans arrived in the region.  While there are no detailed accounts of how maple syrup production and consumption began, various stories do exist; one of the most popular involves maple sap being used in place of water (nebi) to prepare ‘boiled venison’ (taliozikan) served to a chief.  Other stories credit the development of maple syrup production to Glooskap.  Our ancestors developed rituals around sugar-making, celebrating the Sugar Moon (sokal’pokwas… the first full moon of spring) with a Maple Dance (sokal’pmegaw8gan).

Nulhegan Abenaki Maple Sugaring

Gathering Sap (P'kwamhikak)

Our ancestors recognized maple sap as a source of energy and nutrition. Boiling Maple Sap into Kettle SyrupAt the beginning of the spring thaw, they used stone tools to make V-shaped cuts in the trunks of maple trees (sen8moziak).  They then inserted reeds or concave pieces of bark to channel the sap into buckets (p’kenn8joak), which were often made from birch bark (maskwa).  The maple sap was concentrated either by dropping hot cooking stones into the buckets or by leaving them exposed to the cold temperatures overnight and disposing of the layer of ice that formed on top.  Later, as other materials were available, our ancestors boiled the sap in kettles.  Today, many of our people use state-of-the-art arch evaporators while others still keep it simple, making dark and delicious kettle syrup.

This will be our largest gathering until our late-summer Nulheganaki Celebration.  Questions, etc may be directed to (802) 754-2216 or lukewillard@live.com.
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