Sugar Camp, Mille Lacs Reservation
The Ojibwe people who had lived around the shore of Mille Lacs since the mid-18th century followed a seasonal life cycle that determined their work and leisure. The Ojibwe four seasons are Biboon, Ziigwan, Niibin, and Dagwaagin, and each season has unique activities and food preparation. In Ziigwan (spring), Mille Lacs Ojibwe set up sugar camps to collect sap from maple trees. Families used birchbark baskets to harvest the sap, which they made into maple sugar. Ojibwe families still harvest sap today.
In the early 20th century, Ojibwe and other Native communities struggled to maintain their traditional lifeways. The U.S. government pushed assimilation policies on American Indians, pressuring them to abandon native languages, spirituality, and traditions. The government also removed the tribes' ability to govern themselves. In spite of this, Mille Lacs Ojibwe and other Native peoples in Minnesota perservered and continued to practice their traditional lifestyle as much as they were able. This included the seasonal cycles of food collection and preparation.
This photo was taken three years after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a lower court's decision to grant the Mille Lacs band compensation for unlawful loss of land.