Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

2019 Wild Rice Season Includes Expanded Agenda

By: Richard D. Ackley, Jr.

The 2019 Wild Rice Harvest meeting held at the Tribal conference room last Tuesday included an aggressive agenda to promote traditional harvest activities this year. Pete McGeshick, III, one of two appointed Wild Rice Chiefs, presented the agenda that included a focus on youth participation.In years gone by, adults harvested the rice without fanfare. Pete and other leaders see this is as an opportunity to teach our young people the tradition of harvesting manoomin (wild rice).

Rice Lake – taken July 25, 2019.

Rice Lake lies just a short distance off Hwy 55, and has always remained a place where the gift of manoomin from the Creator is honored with prayer and putting asema (tobacco) down, before removing the precious food source. Hands-on training of the harvest techniques is invaluable for young Tribal Members, and will keep our culture vital and alive. The plan includes implementing more attention to education this year than ever before.

During the meeting, Nathan Podany, Tribal Hydrologist, shared a video of Rice Lake showing what the rice looks like from above.

“We want to offer a Rice Camp for the youth, however, the rice is maturing ahead of schedule and picking may just happen earlier than expected this year,” Pete said.

“The very top of the rice plant matures first because it naturally gets the most sunlight; but we do not want to pick the top part of the plant too early because, that is the seed which must be allowed to fall back into the water to allow new growth as it re-seeds for next year’s harvest season,” Rob VanZile added.

Pete mentioned the fact that school starts on September 3rd, and choosing a day for a Rice Camp needs to coincide with school activities.

Mike Preul, Tribal biologist, and Nathan have the task to closely monitor plant growth. Nathan said that the cool nights and warm, sunny days provide for the perfect environment for the rice to flourish. Mike noted that many area lakes are currently behind normal progress.

Picking Mole Lake rice has traditionally occurred around the second week of September. The aerial photos that Nathan shared at the meeting were taken the day before (August 5th).

Pete welcomed and introduced Dan Dumas, the Digital Media Manager with Kim Swisher Communications. Dan will be creating a video of this year’s harvest.

“We plan to document the rice harvesting process – see it happen from the air, the water and the ground. It is really important to tell the story,” Dan said.

He also shared that he would like input from Tribal Members, and is seeking someone to be a narrator and perform the voice-over for the film. Dan expects the video to be approximately 15 minutes in length, and plans to begin filming when picking begins.

The harvest is one aspect in an overall process to be completed before the rice can be consumed. Once the rice has been picked, it must be dried in the open air for a short period with good sunlight.

Once the rice has air dried, it must be parched, a process where small amounts of rice are heated over an open fire in a large kettle and

Dancing the rice. Photo courtesy of the SCC Tribal Historic Preservation Office.

stirred with a wooden paddle to speed up the drying process to remove all moisture so that it does not mold.

Once the rice has been parched, small amounts are spread out on a blanket and a person of small stature will actually walk on top of the rice wearing deer hide moccasins to “dance” the rice (break the hard outer shell) and allow the edible part to break free.

Once the outer shell has broken away, the danced rice is fanned. Fanning is simply taking a blanket or a birch-bark basket of rice and tossing it up and down into the air until the wind can blow away the inedible parts, leaving the tasty manoomin.