Jolene Laskey - Wabanaki Maple Syrup in Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation), NB
Wabanaki is 100% Indigenous female-owned and located on Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation), Wabanaki Maple is proud to introduce you to this tradition that's shared by many Peoples of the Wabanaki Confederacy; Wolastoqiyik, Mi'kmaq, Penobscot, Abenaki, and Passamaquoddy.
Read our interview with Jolene below to find out more about this Canadian staple.
What is Wabanaki?
Wabanaki translated, means “People of the Dawn” or “People of the first Light” it has other references too such as, People of the Eastern Woodlands, but the meaning of Wabanaki refers to the five different First Nation tribes known as, the Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and the Abanaki, together they formed an alliance to protect and watch over the lands, this alliance is referred to as the Wabanaki Confederacy.
How did Wabanaki start?
I had my first experience and exposure to gathering and harvesting maple syrup many years ago, while working at my sister's hobby sugar bush. I must say, it was one of my more enjoyable and memorable work experiences. So for me, I believe a seed had been planted many years ago and has been nurtured and grown into the company today. Inspired by our ancestral roots, Wabanaki Maple was started in 2018. I wanted to share and reconnect people and communities with a piece of our Indigenous history and culture through our maple syrup products.
Have you always lived in New Brunswick?
For most of my life I've lived in New Brunswick, but I was born in Nova Scotia and lived there until the age of 5. I grew up in a military family and non-Indigenous communities, and it wasn't until my father retired from the Navy that we found our way back to New Brunswick and then some 20yrs later reconnected to our First Nation community of Tobique!
What is your favourite way to serve?
I have many favourite ways to serve, but the one I use daily is to serve maple syrup as a natural sweetener for my coffee, and I also love using our maple syrup as the final topping to compliment my French toast breakfast.
Do you have a favourite flavour?
I’d have to say I’m partial to our Bourbon barrel aged syrup, it pairs perfectly with fish and seafood like salmon and scallops, which happen to also be some of my favorite foods!
What does Girl Gang mean to you?
I think the Girl Gang definitely represents strength and empowerment for all women nation-wide. Especially women business owners in communities across our nation. By sharing, supporting and connecting women they are helping to foster and create a healthy business environment, where we can learn, grow and thrive together!
What are your professional goals in the next year?
One of my goals for next year is to move the business forward into international and export markets. I plan to learn the ins and outs of exportation. For this advancement, we will be focused on more market research and identifying new markets, we also plan on expanding our team and to train with the proper process and procedures for the distribution of our products for both our B2C & B2B sales channels.
What should every woman try at least once in her life?
I'd suggest taking a couple days and head out towards the great outdoors, set up camp and surround yourself with forest and waterways to connect with Mother Nature, without internet or phones, and just disconnect from your daily routine for a while. Take this opportunity to invigorate and replenish yourself.
What are some of your favorite hobbies or pastimes?
It may sound odd, but I like getting my hands dirty! Give me a shovel, some seeds, and some dirt and I'm happy. Working outside in my multiple flower gardens is what I refer to as my "therapy"! I also really enjoy gathering and harvesting some of our traditional food from our environment. Whether it's picking berries, fishing or hunting, it's even better when I have my children and grandchildren to accompany me. It's these special moments that allow for me to pass on and share my knowledge with them and to create new memories.
CEO & President
(Wolastoq Maple Products)