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Harvesting and Processing Bigiw,

Pine Pitch

Birchbark canoes are sewn of separate pieces of birchbark. As such, they are naturally destined to leak. In order to make a canoe waterproof, Ojibwe artists developed a mixture of pine resin, oak charcoal, and deer tallow (or other fat) mixed together and heated to create a flexible but permanent coating that could be applied to seams and holes of the canoe's hull.


pine trees beside lake at sunset

White pine trees were once common throughout northern Wisconsin. The timber era led to massive deforestation of the north of the state. Although forests have returned to many parts of the region, their species composition is often quite different from what it was in the past. White pines are today much less common in Wisconsin than they once were, but the white pine has been making a comeback in the last several decades. Here is a young pine alongside on of the many lakes of the Lac du Flambeau reservation. (TD)

Gnawed area in bark of pine tree results in leaking sap

Pine trees exude sap and pitch during the year. Holes gnawed in tree trunks by porcupines, as in this case, can result in large leakages of sap. (TD)

Pine tree with frozen sap on exterior of bark

Frozen pine sap in winter (TD)

Deep but in pine tree allows for collection of sap

Ojibwe developed a method of harvesting pine sap for their needs. Here Wayne is visiting a tree in which a collecting cut has been made. Sap will run out of the tree and collect at the bottom of the cut where it can be collected with a branch or other implement (Tim Frandy).

Wayne displaying harvested sap

Wayne displaying a quantity of collected sap. (Tim Frandy)

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