Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

The Gift of the Harvest

By Richard Ackley, Jr.
Originally posted in 2011
It is early September as I steady our small canoe (jiiman), keeping my left foot in and my right foot out, while my cousin climbs aboard. It is time to harvest the Manoomin (wild rice).
We are on the banks of the eastern edge of Rice Lake, within the boundaries of the Sokaogon Chippewa Indian reservation. Our Rice Chiefs have carefully examined the golden crop and officially declare that this small 320-acre lake is ready for the harvest. A prayer and the laying of tobacco down will ensure a successful day; the air smells sweet. The morning sky provides a dazzling blue canopy as an inducement to proceed. The sun is as intense as it can be for this latitude, and the temperature is a balmy 70 degrees.
My partner carefully makes his way down the center of the wobbly canoe. Holding onto the gunwale, he reaches the opposite end and turns facing me saying, “Miigwech!” (thank you) and then sits down.
Stepping into the unstable craft, I blurt, “Howah, looks like a beautiful day for pickin’ rice!”
September is the time of the wild rice harvest moon (Manoominigiizis). A small number of area lakes, extending north and northwest into Minnesota, are teeming with this year’s crop. The people of the Lake Superior Ojibwe are eager to preserve this time-honored tradition. The flavorful green seeds of the wild rice plant are known as Manoomin, the food that grows on the water.