Wild Rice - Anishinaabeg Manoomin
Read a letter from Winona LaDuke about the manoomin rice fall harvest
In the earliest of teachings of Anishinaabeg history, there is a reference to manoomin (wild rice), known as the food which grows upon the water, the food, the ancestors were told to find, then we would know when to end our migration to the west. It is this profound and historic relationship which is remembered in the wild rice harvest on the White Earth and other reservations-a sacred food which is uniquely ours, a food which is used in our daily lives, our ceremonies, and our thanksgiving feasts. The wild rice harvest of the Anishinaabeg not only feeds the body; it feeds the soul, continuing a tradition that is generations old for these people of the lakes and rivers of the north.
On our reservation, we’ve adapted some traditional teachings to some intermediate technologies and bring forth some amazing wild rice. That is to say, after the ricers come off the lakes, we meet them at the landing, weigh the rice, and then bring it to our parching mill. There, the rice is laid out to dry. Pat Wichern carefully scoops the rice into the parchers, and then makes the fire- its wood parched for a bit over two hours. Those parchers are large drums, which were hand made in the l970s by a parcher up near Deer River, Minnesota. The hot parched rice cascades out of the parchers into cooling bins, where it will sit for a few hours, or if we’re tired, till the next day. Then, it’s time to jig the rice- that means “ dancing on the rice”, now we have a machine which runs off of our l960 tractor motor, which takes off the hulls. Then we clean the rice in the fanning mill (another specialized piece of equipment from the l980s) to get it ready for you.
’m telling you this story, because everything about our wild rice harvest is unique- from the lake and rivers from which our rice comes, to our technology- the work of local parchers, putting together various technologies over 50 years, until we got what we needed. Our manoomin grows nowhere else in the world, and our people, the Anishinaabeg from these reservations, intend to keep this tradition alive, vital and nurturing our souls and our bellies.
I’m hoping you’ll join us in pre-ordering wild rice for your fall season. That way, we’ll know how much to get at the rice landings on Big Rice Lake, Chippewa Lake, Flat Lake, Boot Lake, or Indian Creek. This wild rice economy means a great deal to many of our families, and your early wild rice purchase will help many of them make it through the winter months with a bit more income. Your support also helps the White Earth Land Recovery Project and Native Harvest in our regional and national work to protect wild rice from genetic engineering and patenting, and also to restore and nurture the traditional wild rice economy in our region.
To order wild rice go to our website http://www.nativeharvest.com and click on wild rice! When you make your purchase, insert Slow Food USA into the business section of your personal information or insert Slow Food USA in the comments area.
Guarantee yourself the freshest wild rice available, direct from being traditionally hand harvested, parched, packaged and straight to your dinner table! You just can’t get it any fresher than that! You will be prepared ahead of time for your holiday get-togethers by being able to serve the naturally nutritious, deliciously nutty flavored grain as a perfect compliment to any other foods on your dinner table!
Wild rice is a misnomer, as it is not actually rice, but rather an aquatic grass similar to corn. This tall, aquatic grass has long blades that grow best in the shallow waters of the Great Lakes region of the US (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio). Wild rice is the only grain native to North America and comes in a myriad of colors in the darker hues—green, tan, brown.
The Anishinaabeg people—one of the rice’s American Indian custodians—also call wild rice Manoomin, which literally means “the good grain”. Other tribes in the Algonquin linguistic group such as the Menominee and the Sioux also care for the rice.
Manoomin tastes richly complex with subtle earthy notes of mushrooms and wood smoke. Manoomin is harvested today using many of the original gathering traditions. In pairs, the Anishinaabeg canoe through the autumnal fields, bending the blades of grass over the canoes and beating the seeds from the grass with their paddles. On a successful day of harvest, a pair can gather up to two hundred and fifty kilos of manoomin. Once harvested, the seeds are sun dried or parched over a slow fire and then threshed and winnowed in the wind—to ensure that the husks blow away.
The beauty of manoomin is its easy cultivation, as the rice grows naturally, with no need to be planted or tended, and provides a bountiful harvest that can be stored through the winter. Unfortunately, the existence of wild rice is threatened in three major ways. Firstly, biotechnology and the genetic manipulation of the wild rice genome jeopardize the rice’s originality. Secondly, almost 95% of the “wild” rice sold in the US today is grown in paddies, primarily in California, where American Indian traditions are not observed. Lastly, the recreational zoning and damming of lakes as well as agricultural runoff are all leading to the rapid devastation of the natural ecosystems of the Great Lakes and Minnesota lakes.
The Slow Food Presidium strives to save the livelihood of the manoomin. With Presidium backing, the manoomin is harvested in the remote lakes of northern Minnesota on the White Earth Reservation, which is inhabited by the Anishinaabeg people. The Presidium works in conjunction with the existing projects established by Native Harvest as part of the White Earth Land Recovery Project to promote consumption of traditionally harvested and prepared wild rice.
Production Area: Great Lakes Region, Lakes of Northern Minnesota
Please enter the word you see in the image below:
Find out about open positions and internships as Slow Food USA.
Find out more.
68 Summit Street, 2B
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Tel: 718 260-8000 or 877 SlowFoo(d)
Fax: 718 260-8068
© 2010 Slow Food USA - All Rights Reserved