Maple Sugar Camp: Everyone was excited when they heard the crows cawing in the spring. Every year, the crows left for winter. They did not return until winter was over, around the middle of March. The return of the crows signified that they had lived through another winter. In the hunting camps, everyone listened for the crows. When the crows returned, it meant it was nearly time to move to the maple syrup camp. April was maple syrup month.
In April, each family traveled to their own maple sugar camp. Once they arrived, they set up their wigwam. They might run into one or two other families who set up their wigwams in the area, but like the hunting camp, maple syrup camp was a time of isolation. If the family was lucky, the old frame they left behind the prior year might still be intact. If so, to set up their wigwam in the new camp would be a breeze. All they would need to do is wrap the old frame with the deerskin they had brought with them. If not, they made a new frame.
At the maple syrup camp, both men and women collected maple syrup. The Ojibwa added maple syrup to many of their foods including corn bread and rice dishes. They made a candy from maple syrup in small cubes. Everyone wanted to make sure there was lots of maple syrup available to use all year long.
The women also used this time to remove birch bark from the trees. If the men had time, they helped them. In the spring, the birch bark was easy to remove. The women pounded it into a great roll for easy carrying. Birch bark was used all year long to make boxes and dishes and pails.
The women also wove nets while they were at the maple syrup camp. The big nets would be used to catch fish once they had collected enough maple sugar for their needs.
Fishing: Spring was the time for fishing. The Ojibwa caught fish using a long pole with a sharp point. They also used the nets the women had made while staying at the maple syrup camp. Some people in the tribe had a special job. Their job was to make sure the fish did not die out. If the fish were low one year, it was their job to post a sign saying, "You may not fish this stream. Come back next year." The Ojibwa did not write down words. They left another kind message that all Ojibwa people could read - a picture message.
Gardens: Spring was also the time they planted corn, squash, pumpkins, and potatoes. They did not plant huge fields to feed large numbers. Each family planted a garden for their own use. They might plant that garden anywhere. They knew where it was. They would return in late summer to harvest their crop.
Wild Fruit & Vegetables: June was strawberry moon. In June, the Ojibwa gathered wild fruit, berries, and vegetables.
Wild Rice Camp: August was rice moon. Wild rice grew on long stalks near the shoreline of the lakes. Rice was an important food. They made rice flour and breads from rice. The Ojibwa invented a system that allowed them to both harvest and plant at the same time. In late summer/early fall, the Ojibwa gathered rice by using their canoes as baskets. One person would steer the canoe. The other would bend the rice stalks over the canoe and hit the stalks with a stick. Some of the rice would fall in the canoe. And some would fall in the lake. The rice that fell in the lake was the seed for next year's crop. The Ojibwa always made sure that enough rice fell in the lake so that there would lots of new rice next year.
If you would like to try making rice the Ojibwa way, here's how you do it. Make wild rice according to the package. Before serving, add one tablespoon of cold maple syrup. Mix well, and serve.
Hunting Camp: The Ojibwa did not follow the buffalo, but they ate lots of meat - deer, beaver, muskrat, raccoon, elk, and more. In winter, the Ojibwa lived in isolated hunting camps. At the most, you might find two or three wigwams together. This allowed the men to hunt in a wide area without competition from another hunters. That way, everyone found food.