When the loons gather in migratory rafts on Lake Superior and salmon begin to run up its tributary streams, it’s time to harvest wild rice. Native people there call it manoomin. They hold a Wild Rice Camp on Tubbs Lake near Mecosta, Michigan, where tribal and non-tribal people alike can join in the harvest and preserve the ancient cultural tradition of ricing. They harvest the rice in canoes (above, photo by Rebecca Williams). Back on shore, they thresh the grain by dancing on it. According to The Environment Report:
Roger LaBine is a member of the Lac Vieux Desert band of Lake Superior Chippewa. He says manoomin is central to his ancestors’ migration story.
“And they were presented in visions with seven prophecies and we would know where our homeland would be when we found this food that grows on the water, which is the manoomin.”
He says to the Anishinaabe people, everything has a spirit. He says the spirit of the manoomin is glad to have them back.
“It’s been waiting for us. By us coming out here and harvesting this rice, it’s helping us to enhance it. Not only the rice bed but it’s a healing process for us, it gives us that incentive to carry it on. We need that. It’s our identity. It’s almost like a language, we lose our identity if we lose our language, if we lose our dance, if we lose our drum.”
LaBine says on the last day of camp, they’ll return one day’s harvest back to the water, to re-seed the rice beds for next year.
“And say thank you, Miigwetch, give us all that we need and no more than we need so that we can carry this on.”