My Visit to Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa

suzanne Hello!  This is Suzanne Young, from Vermont.  I was at Oceti Sakowin October 16-21, 2016

The kids at Mni Wichoni Nakicizin Owayawa spend much of their morning reading together in small groups.  School lessons being at 10:00.  I had heard meal times in the camp can be sporadic and can vary from day to day depending on how much help is in the main camp kitchen or other events such as direct actions which may interrupt lunch preparations.

I had also heard there was a need for healthy snacks for the children.  As a pre-school chef at home in Vermont I have a lot of experience in this area.

While I was in Bismarck I picked up some food to take to Oceti Sakowin Camp.  Friends at home had donated money for me to purchase food for the camp.  And since I’m from Vermont I thought bringing some maple syrup would be appropriate, so I packed two half gallons in my checked baggage on the airplane.

My intentions were to help with the school more than I did.  Cleaning the library with two other volunteers my first full day in camp, when the school was not in session, felt like the greatest accomplishment.  We cleared the entryway of donations and trash, moved extra supplies to a satellite tent, and created two cozy reading spaces with rugs and bean bag chairs. I brought a case of Macintosh apples just for the kids and left it available on the snack shelves in the library.

However, when I visited the school the next day, and spent sometime reading with children I realized that my hope in helping out might not be the best for the children.  It was apparent that many adults, children, and media had been coming in and out in the previous days.  Since I was only staying a few more days I felt adding another new face and personality would not benefit the children.  Connecting and attaching to their main teachers and solidifying their relationships seemed more important than my need to get involved.  Hauling trash, preparing healthy snacks on the periphery, and sharing them seemed more appropriate.

Two other volunteers and I set up on a table outside the school tent about noon one day.  (Lunch wasn’t expected til about 2:00)  We served the children plain whole milk yogurt and added a dollop of maple syrup to flavor it.  Some children were a bit unsure about the maple syrup at first, but after taking a small taste they were convinced.

Thinking about boosting the protein in the snacks for the kids I also brought cheese sticks.  These too were very popular!  With the weather turning colder keeping dairy products like these fresh is less of a concern, and the reason cheeses and yogurts were invented in the first place was to extend the life of milk.

The next day I made up a batch of maple – oatmeal – almond butter no bake cookies.  These I made at my own campsite over a backpacking stove.  Again the almond butter added some protein to the snack and the quick oats used in the cookies were easy to handle in a camp environment.  I brought them up to the school tent late in the afternoon.  The children were just finishing their lessons and Blaze assured the kids they would get some cookies after they finished their “good work.”

I am so glad I went to Oceti Sakowin Camp and will forever be changed because of my time there and am  thankful and honored to a part of it, however small.

The recipe for the Maple No-Bake Cookies follows.  Make them at home or at camp!

Maple-Oatmeal No Bake Cookies

Ingredients

¼ cup butter

½ cup pure maple syrup (preferably grade B)

2 T milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract (omitted)

Pinch of salt

½ cup almond butter

¾ – 1½ cups quick oats

Directions

Combine butter, maple syrup, and milk in a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil on medium heat.  Boil for 8-10 minutes, you want the syrup to thicken slightly.

Remove from heat and let cool for couple minutes.  Stir in almond butter and salt until the almond butter blends with the syrup.

Put the oats into a separate bowl and then add the syrup mixture. Stir well.

Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Notes

Boiling the maple syrup mixture for a full 8-10 minutes over medium heat is very important the thickening syrup helps the cookies stick together.   The mixture will be kind of “frothy” for a while during boiling, don’t worry, just keep stirring.

Getting the proper consistency for the cookies can be tricky, due in part to varying consistencies of almond butter (some are pure almonds, others are emulsified, I find the emulsified to made firmer cookies that hold their shape, but prefer a more natural almond butter generally) and to variations of the thickness of the boiled syrup.

You can adjust the firmness of the cookies by adding more oats if they are too runny or if your mixture is too dry you can add a tiny amount of milk, or a bit more almond butter.

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