The Gift of Wild Rice
It’s funny I should come across an article about wild rice when we just enjoyed some for dinner last night. We were lucky to receive gifts of wild rice from two of our Voyageur Crew family who harvested their own this past fall. Knowing how rare wild rice is up here and the amount of work that went into the harvesting makes it a very special gift.
Wild rice isn’t found naturally in many places and it doesn’t grow easily. Conditions need to be just right in order for there to be a successful and bountiful harvest. Most people don’t realize how important wild rice is especially to some special people. An article by Michelle Meyer does a great job explaining the history of wild ricing and about the historical importance of wild rice to the Ojibwa.
"Wild rice or wild oats were the non-Native names given to a food stuff the Native Ojibwa population called manomin. Manomin derives from Manitou, the name of the Great Spirit, and Meenum which means delicacy. Ojibwa elders refer to it as *Manitou gi ti gahn* or food from God’s garden… Ojibwa life elevates manomin above being simply food. It is a sacred food which is harvested, processed and eaten with a deep respect and reverence. Wild rice is deeply imbedded in the mythology and ceremony of the Ojibwa."
Proposed mining in Minnesota may sever the relationship between wild rice and the native people of Minnesota. In an article called, "Who Owns Wild Rice," on the website Flesh and Stone, author Jeff Nygaard questions ownership of the land and it’s resources. He quotes Minnesota Public Radio as having said, "High levels of sulfates released from Minnesota’s mining industry are suspected of diminishing Minnesota’s native wild rice beds."
I’m sure the wild rice beds wouldn’t be the only thing damaged by the proposed mining in Minnesota. But even if it was the only thing I feel it is more valuable than all of the nickel in Minnesota. That’s just coming from me, a person whose ties to wild rice are only as deep as the roots of wild rice itself. Even though I don’t own wild rice I do consider it a special gift and one that I would like to continue to receive in the years to come.