The Ojibwe comprise the majority of the Native American communities in the Lake Superior area. According to oral tradition, the Ojibwe once lived along the East Coast until a prophecy led them west to the land where food grows on water. The food is manoomin, or wild rice (Wild Rice). Delicious and nutritious, manoomin is an amazing food of the Northwoods.
On Saturday a handful of Conserve School students visited a traditional Ojibwe wild rice camp hosted by the Lac Vieux Desert tribe, the Native Wild Rice Coalition, and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. The camp was a 4 day affair in Watersmeet, Michigan, and involved every step in the ricing process, from the preparation of tools to harvesting to processing. During Conserve School’s visit the students carved ricing sticks, or “knockers,” that are used to collect the wild rice in the canoes during harvesting. Our students also got to practice maneuvering canoes through the water using a long wooden tool called a push pole (traditional paddles risk damaging the rice). Unfortunately, a storm blew in just as our students struck out for the rice beds and they were unable to actually collect any rice.
Nonetheless, the traditional Ojibwe method for harvesting and processing wild rice will continue to be a part of the Conserve School semester. Earlier this summer before the students arrived, our staff was 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 Family Weekend in October Roger LaBine, the host of the wild rice camp, will visit Conserve School and present on hands-on demonstration of the harvesting process of wild rice.
In order to foster responsible environmental stewardship, Conserve School realizes that students need to learn to view and relate to the environment from a variety of perspectives. Some of these perspectives come from cultures other than our own. We are fortunate to have local tribal connections that are willing to offer our students direct experiences about their environmental practices. It is experiences such as these that will help Conserve School students understand not only one another better but also themselves, as we all work together for the sake of the environment.
– Graduate Fellow Amy Nosal