Yesterday, on National Aboriginal Day, I found myself driving the 105 in Cape Breton to meet with an individual to discuss Aboriginal tourism initiatives in Unama'ki and mainland Nova Scotia. Like all researchers, I went with a plan to learn more about a specific topic of interest. Not surprisingly, the conversation moved in unexpected directions. Of all that I learned, perhaps the sweetest was the origins of Indian Maiden Maple Syrup.
Some of you may have already stumbled upon this product or at least heard about it. That's because in 2010, Mary Louise Bernard competed in the Dreamcatcher Charitable Foundation’s The Big Idea 2 and won second place for her branded maple syrup. Her prize was $10,000, which she planned to invest into the improved labelling of her product and the development of a tourism attraction that would tell the tale of the Indian maiden. (For press coverage, visit the Cape Breton Post archives.)
So just who is this Indian maiden? There is a Mi'kmaw legend that tells the story of a young woman who was the first to boil maple sap thereby transforming it into maple syrup. Bernard recognized that this story would bring added value to an everyday product and branded her own line of maple syrup that is sourced locally. It is available to tourists and locals alike on the Cabot Trail (see the listing in Nova Scotia's Unique Shops).
As Bernard develops her property, I'm sure we'll see even more of the Indian Maiden — she has an impressive plan for development. But until then, it's worth the drive to Middle River to pick up a bottle of Indian Maiden Maple Syrup and ask her to tell you the story of how maple syrup came to be.