Posted by: csdailyblog | August 17, 2012

Conserve Staff Make Wild Rice Winnowing Baskets

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Conserve School students will have the opportunity this semester to harvest, thresh, winnow, and parch wild rice under the tutelage of Roger LaBine, an expert on wild rice habitat and traditional Ojibwe harvesting and processing practices.  Roger, a member of the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, based in Watersmeet, Michigan, has visited Conserve School previously to show students how wild rice — actually a grass —  is prepared after harvesting, and to coach them as they danced on the rice in moccasins to loosen the seed husks. This year, Roger will be teaching students how to harvest wild rice in canoes: one student will stand in the back of the canoe,  using a long pole to push through rice beds in shallow lake water; the other student will kneel in the bow, using two wooden sticks to bend the rice stalks over the canoe and knock the mature seeds off the stalk.

A few days ago, during the second week of our staff summer in-service, Roger and his colleague Charlie Fox visited Conserve School to teach staff members how to prepare some of the tools the students will use during the experience: traditional winnowing baskets made of birch bark, and ricing sticks, or knockers, made from lightweight wood.

Take a look at the accompanying photos to see Conserve School staff members concentrating on their task as they examine pieces of birch bark for holes (not good, because the rice will fall through), punch holes in the birch bark with an awl, sew up seams with artificial sinew, and finish their baskets with willow rims.

Roger and Charlie were patient teachers, frequently coming to our rescue when the birch bark threatened to split or refused to bend into the proper shape. Their work restoring wild rice habitat and teaching students and community members traditional methods of harvesting and processing wild rice is supported by grants from a variety of environmental stewardship organizations, including the Stewardship Network.

Mary Anna Thornton, Assistant Head of School



  1. […] busy making paper birch baskets which are used in the processing stage of ricing (see the blog post here).  Students have also been making ricing tools during Stewardship in Action.  During our upcoming […]

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