Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Manoomin Returns to Spur Lake

By: Katie Thoresen, WXPR Public Radio
Spur Lake is a 113-acre undeveloped lake in eastern Oneida County where wild rice used to be plentiful, but that changed about two decades ago.

When Nathan Podany first started as a hydrologist for the Sokaogon Chippewa Community, a rice chief took him to Spur Lake.

“[The rice chief] talked about the tribal chief driving them to the lake so they could have a rice camp and how important that lake was,” said Podany. “Talking to some of these elders, who may remember being at Spur Lake, remember harvesting, but it’s been so long. It’s kind of tough for them to recall, like, ‘how was that year? Was it a good year, was it a poor year?’”

Podany says people now in their 30s or 40s have little to no memory coming to Spur Lake.

Decline & return of wild rice

It’s not just Spur Lake facing this issue. Wild rice has been on the decline regionally for decades.

Podany says wild rice or manoomin is a strong, but fickle plant.

“Seemingly, annually, we’re losing production in individual lakes, but also cumulatively, in general across the region. Whether it’s low water a few years ago, where you couldn’t even go out and harvest because we were seeing mud flats, or five or six years ago, we had such high water that a large rain event of six-plus inches could just remove the whole stand of rice from the lake,” said Podany.

Climate change, disease, boating activity, and waterfowl can all impact wild rice negatively.

Wisconsin DNR District Ecologist for North Central Wisconsin Carly Lapin says in the case of Spur Lake rising water levels was the likely cause of decline.

Read or listen to the full story here.