The rich, sweet and savoury flavour of maple syrup has been a staple for Canadians from before we can remember. There’s something about pouring that amber syrup over French toast and pancakes that makes life that much sweeter. While you might be familiar how maple syrup is made, can you say the same about its history?
Indigenous and woman-owned Wabanaki Maple is here to reconnect Canadians to the origins of maple syrup: Their business is tapping on something special by combining the elements of history and tradition. Maple syrup has long been a part of Canada’s cultural narrative, but its rich history rooted in Indigenous culture is often overlooked. Wabanaki Maple offers an opportunity to dive deeper into the traditional culture of maple syrup while also being absolutely delicious.
Paying Homage to Ancestral Roots
Every year as winter becomes spring, you can almost smell the rich aromas of sweet maple syrup coming from the deep forests. The transition of seasons known as the maple moon, marks the beginning of a long-awaited harvest for Indigenous people across Canada. Maple syrup was cherished for its healing abilities, and even traded with settlers during the Canadian harsh winters. This philosophy was shared by many Indigenous communities including Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq, Penobscot, Abenaki, and Passamaquoddy Peoples. Part of the journey at Wabanaki Maple is to educate consumers on where maple syrup comes from and why it’s important. Each Indigenous community represented on the Wabanaki Confederacy has an important role in strategizing how Canadians can become more connected with Indigenous food culture.
“My inspiration is derived from my Indigenous ancestral roots, my family, and a love for working in both the culinary and the agriculture industries,” says CEO Jolene Johnson. “It worked out as a perfect fit as I paired these passions together to create Wabanaki Maple.” Wabanaki Maple launched in 2018 as a way for Jolene to reconnect with her Indigenous culture. What started off as a small business selling at local farmers markets has grown into a successful multinational e-commerce business.
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The Importance of Giving Back
Part of Jolene’s mission is to keep Indigenous tradition in maple syrup harvesting, but she’s also always finding new ways to innovate. Wabanaki Maple’s trademark is their signature line of barrel aged maple syrup from bourbon, whisky and rum barrels. This unique combination of spirit and syrup gives Wabanaki maple the warm and sophisticated flavour it’s famous for. The success of her business has given Jolene the opportunity to give back to her community and the environment: “Through the company’s Bareroots Initiative, we are committed to helping in reforestation efforts to preserve and support a healthy environment for the next generations,” she says.
“I have several driving factors that motivate me on a daily basis — family comes first, and for me, fulfilling the various roles as wife, mother and especially grandmother are of utmost importance and help to keep me grounded, connected and filled with gratitude,” says Jolene. When purchasing Wabanaki Maple, it’s clear that it is not only an opportunity to try delicious maple syrup — but to learn about the history behind the iconic condiment. Wabanaki Maple is located in Neqotkuk (Tobique) First Nation and is available to purchase on online or in select grocers across Canada.