ONEIDA NATION RESERVATION, Wis. — As the season slowly turns from winter to spring, members of the Oneida Nation prepare for a return to the thawing woods.
"We look upon the maple tree as the head tree - the head one of all the woods," Oneida Nation High School Principal Art Skenandore said. "As the head tree it gives us that - what we call sweet medicine"
In the coming weeks, the woods will become Skenandore's classroom, as the maple syrup season begins.
"Our maple syrup curriculum starts with a tobacco burning," he said. "That tobacco burning is really about a message that we're sending to all the trees that we're back again."
It's a rich tradition in the Oneida Nation Schools. Kids from elementary to high school will take part in the syrup-making process - collecting sap, producing syrup, and distributing it to the community.
"The whole process is really the learning that we exchange with our students, and we know that it's successful because we have now our students that have their children in the school system, and they speak about the experience they had in the woods when they were younger," Skenandore said.
One of the biggest lessons is teamwork.
"You look at the woods here and the journey through the woods, we're really in an elder's house," he said. "So the frame of mind and the spirit of working together is something we really emphasize with our students."