Oneida Maple Sugar Camp

tsi? watsikhe? tu-nihe - "The Place Where They Make Maple Sugar"


Oneida, Wisconsin

Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin

This 800 square foot project constructed of cordwood masonry will serve the Oneida Tribal School and Oneida Eco-Services Department.  Its primary use is a place where maple sap is boiled down to syrup; the tapping of maple trees and using it as a natural sweetener is a cultural tradition for the Oneida.  This seasonal ritual is initiated by reading the environment to know when the sap is ready.  Oneida tradition states the sap begins to run after the first clap of thunder of the late winter wakes-up the trees. The Oneida moon calendar includes a maple syrup moon to mark the time for this activity.    

The building is also an observational device.  The ventilation cone is used to see the “seven dancers” i.e.  The Pleiades.  Once this constellation is directly overhead it signals the Mid-Winter Ceremony.  This ceremony celebrates the winter and looks forward to the spring. 

The cultural importance of celestial observation to the Oneida has diminished over time. It was used to signal many events in nature including a notification that the Earth is ready for cultivation or harvesting.  This building seeks to render visible the importance of that celestial observation, once again.
The cordwood utilized to build this structure comes from harvesting the accumulation of fallen trees across the reservation.  The students of the Oneida elementary and middle school will provide some of the labor needed to make the wood masonry walls.

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