Harvesting Wild Rice
Yesterday I invited myself along to watch Kristi and Adam harvest wild rice. Adam went ricing with Ian last year but I have never done this. Kristi and Adam camped out overnight while I had to drive and paddle by myself to meet them. Of course I had wind in my face as I was paddling to them and thought about turning around a couple of times. I’m glad I didn’t even though it took me over 40 minutes to get to them.
I could only catch glimpses of Adam as he pushed his way through the wild rice. It was as if he was trying to hide as his head dipped below the tall rice while extending his body along with the pole. In order to move through the rice a push pole is used to propel the canoe. The pole must have a forked end with forks no longer than 12 inches in length. The poler stands in the back of the canoe while the passenger uses flails to gently knock the rice into the canoe. Flails are kind of like wooden drumsticks and the lighter they are the better. The Minnesota DNR specifies the flails can’t be longer than 30 inches or weigh more than a pound. Harvesting can only be done from 9am until 3pm and it’s a fairly short season from August 15-September 30th.
More photos found on Facebook
When I finally caught up with the canoe Adam and Kristi had a nice canoe load of rice. They also had spiders and worms in their canoe which is a large part of wild rice harvesting I guess. Kristi worked the flails like an expert as she tapped them along the towering rice plants. It almost looked as if she was doing a dance with her arms stretching out above her. Adam watched her carefully to know when to pull the canoe to the next plants in line so Kristi could continue to do her rice dance. It was almost mesmerizing to watch them as they worked in rhythm and quickly disappeared out of my sight.
I now crave to know more about the whole process of harvesting wild rice and the history associated with it. It’s such a fascinating process and the collecting of rice is just the first step of many. Before it makes it to the dinner plate there are other steps that must be completed including drying, parching and hulling. All of the work involved takes alot of time and it would be much easier to go and purchase wild rice from a store.
However, like gardening or picking berries there is something very satisfying about collecting ones own food. To Native Americans wild rice beds were sacred and the wild ricing season was a huge part of their lives. A good harvest was very important to them and there was much concern about water levels, wind and more. I can see how the whole process would seem almost magical especially after all of the work and special care that would yield food for their survival.
Migwitch Mahnomenî – giving thanks for the wild rice.