Clark Fay was a sought after early Twentieth Century illustrator who studied under N.C. Wyeth and Harvey Dunn and produced illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post and Delineator. Legend of Woksis is a masterwork by the artist and is presumed to have been commissioned by the Log Cabin Products Company for their corporate collection.
Legend of Woksis depicts the Algonquian Chief Woksis thanking the Great Spirit for guiding his people to the sweet sap of the maple tree. He stands before a kettle of boiling syrup with his arm raised toward the sky, while seven members of his tribe encircle the scene.
There are many legends surrounding the origins of maple syrup, but most likely Native Americans discovered sap by eating 'sapsicles' - icicles of frozen sap that form at the end of broken maple branches after some of the water has evaporated. Perhaps the most celebrated story of the discovery of maple syrup is the one Fay has chosen to depict - the Iroquois legend of Chief Woksis and his ingenious wife.
One evening during the Season of the Melting Snow, Chief Woksis hurled his tomahawk into a maple tree. He removed it the following day, when the weather had turned warm, and went hunting. Unbeknownst to him, sap began to flow from the cut in the tree into a bucket that happened to be near the base of the maple. As evening approached, Woksis' wife needed water to boil the venison for dinner. She noticed the bucket of sap, tasted its sweetness, and decided to use it to boil the meat. As the meat cooked, the sap boiled down to syrup, filling the air with the unmistakable scent of maple while sweetening the stew. Woksis was amazed by this delicious syrup and told his tribe that the Great Spirit had guided his wife to make this discovery. The Algonquian people call maple syrup Sinzibuckwud, meaning drawn from the wood, and the syrup continues to be inextricably linked with the winter traditions of all tribes of the Iroquois nation.