Maple sugar harvest part art, part science

Dozens of First Nations students are in Saskatoon this week for the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations science fair.

Students gather for First Nations science fair in Saskatoon

Lee-Ann Ketchemonia is one of dozens of competitors at the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations science fair. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Lee-Ann Ketchemonia says tapping a maple tree is part art, part science.

Ketchemonia is one of the finalists in a provincial science fair for First Nations students. Dozens of students from across Saskatchewan are competing at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon this week.

The 13-year-old from the Keeseekoose First Nation created a project based on her family's tradition of collecting maple syrup. She studied temperature, pressure and other principles.

But there's more to it for First Nations people.

Before they begin, an offering is made to the tree.

"You're taking something so you have to give back," she said. "And then, after you give the offering, you can start by drilling a hole into the tree."

Her family has been harvesting the sap of Manitoba maple trees for generations, so it was a natural choice for a science project, she said.

Mary-Ann Ketchemonia is proud of all the Yorkton Tribal Council students she brought to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations science fair, including her niece, Lee-Ann. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Her teacher and aunt, Mary-Ann Ketchemonia, organized the first regional science fair for the Yorkton Tribal Council earlier this year.

She said there are growing numbers of First Nations lawyers and teachers, but she wants Indigenous youth to consider a career in the sciences as well.

Mary-Ann said she's proud of how much her niece has learned.

"She found out herself how many sciences were involved in the maple trees and the maple project. That was a surprise to all of us, actually."