Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Wild Rice Reseeding Project on Pickerel Lake

By Richard D. Ackley, Jr.

Last week, Tribal Members and staff from the community braved the cold, wind and wet weather on Pickerel Lake in an effort to restore a three-acre segment of a long-lost, ancient wild rice bed.

The reseeding project is an aggressive attempt to regrow wild rice in its former home. Pickerel Lake was once part of a chain of area lakes where ancient beds of Manoomin (wild rice) were prolific – until the advance of property development along the lake. Manoomin has not existed in Pickerel Lake for almost 50 years.

Tribal Members Pete McGeshick, III, Leland Van Zile, Carson Ackley, and Mike Preul, Sokaogon Fisheries Biologist, loaded a boat with nine large bags of freshly harvested wild rice, each holding approximately 40 pounds. Mike brought along several buoys that were set out at various intervals near the northwest shoreline to mark off the area where reseeding was being done.

GPS coordinates will assist with future record keeping and in collecting more precise data as time progresses.

Mike navigated the boat along the shoreline, allowing Pete, Leland and Carson to throw handfuls of rice into the lake off both sides of the boat. This process was repeated several times to spread the rice out as best as possible. After about an hour, all of the rice had been distributed and the group returned to the boat landing.

“Pickerel Lake is considered a high-priority lake, and the Pickerel Chain Lake Association has been very cooperative with the project and has offered its support,” Mike said.

Over the past two to three hundred years, Northern Wisconsin has gradually lost many of its ancient wild rice beds as a result human activity. Pickerel Lake has many of the same qualities that Rice Lake has, which is located just 10 minutes up the road in Mole Lake. Studies have revealed that Mole Lake rice has an ability to be regrown, but it has a better chance of survival in certain shallow areas, such as along Pickerel Lake’s shoreline.

Wild rice is a sensitive plant and its growth cycle can be greatly hampered by drastic changes in water temperatures and lake levels. This year’s abundance of rain may have had negative impacts on some of the area’s rice growth.

“Right now, Pickerel Lake is about nine inches above normal,” said Mike. This re-seeding project has taken place in an area of the lake which has limited or lower underlining natural water current activity and an average depth of approximately three feet.

The Mole Lake community is passionate about this humble and unassuming plant because, following the Indian Re-organization Act of 1934, Willard L. Ackley, the last federally recognized Chief of the Sokaogon, chose this 1,700 acre parcel of land along Hwy 55 as our permanent home. This became the Mole Lake Tribe’s official land base, making ownership important to meeting “federal land-into-trust” status.

                                                                                                             Photo taken July 25th
Our parcel of land surrounds Rice Lake, and remains a sacred place, a gift from the Creator, central to the entire culture of our people, and has always been an outstanding source of food long before recorded history.

Mike maintains that the reseeding of the lake will likely result in success within the next three years, if it withstands the tests of nature. If it survives, the plant is anticipated to become well established. Regrowth in the future will ensure its ability to return and survive, as it has done for eons. The future of our culture just might be achieved, simply through the promulgation of this species of plant life.