Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month

Wild Rice

11/21/2023 | Marina Montez-Ellis, Garden Program Specialist


Wild rice has a long history as an important food staple for the Ojibwa, Menomini and Cree people. Manoomin is the word for wild rice in the Anishinaabe language meaning 'good berry.' In a dream the Anishinaabe were told to go where the food grows on the water. Their migration from the east brought them to the Great Lakes area where wild rice thrives in rivers, lakes and brackish estuaries. Varieties of Zizania or wild rice grow in Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland, Wisconsin, Iowa, Northern Ohio, Northern Idaho, Eastern Washington, and Northwestern Montana and is grown commercially in California and Oregon.

The Indigenous people of North America have harvested this native annual grass for centuries. Ricing is still practiced today, where at least 2 people will harvest the ripe grass grains by canoe, equipped with a pole and sticks. The poler navigates and pushes the canoe through the wetland while the knocker gently bends the stalks and taps the grains into the canoe. It is laborious work, but work that carries the immense reward of sustaining tradition and culture.

As with many ecosystems today there are many concerns to sustain wild rice fields. Pipelines, pollution, along with habitat and wildlife loss continue to threaten this plant. Many states and organizations are working to keep wild rice beds viable and healthy.

#wildrice, #nativeamericanheritage, #manoomin