Wild rice buyer and sellers

Wild rice buyer and sellers

Two Ojibwe youths sell bags of wild rice to a buyer on the Leech Lake Reservation of Ojibwe. Photograph by Bill Burnson, ca. 1970.

Wild rice harvest on Mud Lake

Citizens of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe harvest rice on Mud Lake, located on the Leech River, seventeen miles downstream of Leech Lake Dam, on September 3, 2015. USACE photo by George Stringham. Public domain.

Tying wild rice stalks

Tying wild rice stalks

An Ojibwe woman ties together stalks of wild rice with basswood fiber to prepare them for harvest. Photograph by Frances Densmore, ca. 1930s. From Reserve Album 96, page 27.

Wild Rice and the Ojibwe

Wild rice is a food of great historical, spiritual, and cultural importance for the Ojibwe people. After colonization disrupted their traditional food system, however, they could no longer depend on stores of wild rice for food all year round. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, this traditional staple was appropriated by white entrepreneurs and marketed as a gourmet commodity. Native and non-Native people alike began to harvest rice to sell it for cash, threatening the health of the natural stands of the crop. This lucrative market paved the way for domestication of the plant, and farmers began cultivating it in paddies in the late 1960s. In the twenty-first century, many Ojibwe and other Native people are fighting to sustain the hand-harvested wild rice tradition and to protect wild rice beds.

Manoomin (wild rice) from Mille Lacs

Manoomin (wild rice) from Mille Lacs

Manoomin (wild rice) sold at Mille Lacs Indian Museum. Packed in 2004 by Manoomin, Inc., of McGregor, Minnesota, a company owned by members of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

Ricing sticks (bawa'iganaakoog)

Bawa'iganaakoog (ricing sticks)

Pair of bawa'iganaakoog (ricing sticks or knockers) wrapped with cloth tape. Made and used by Robert Gawboy Jr. (Bois Forte Band of Chippewa) between 1940 and 1960.

Ojibwe birchbark winnowing basket

Ojibwe birchbark winnowing basket

Ojibwe birchbark winnowing basket, created not later than 1930. Used at Grand Portage Indian Reservation.

Mortar and pestle for threshing wild rice

Mortar and pestle for threshing wild rice

Mortar and pestle used by Ojibwe people for threshing wild rice. The long pestle (A) is made from a roughly carved piece of wood. The mortar (B) is a cedar slat bucket with a round log slab base. Because the support hoops are not attached, the mortar disassembles easily for storage. Forms part of the Jeannette O. and Harry D. Ayer Ojibwe Collection.

Parching wild rice at Nett Lake

Women parching wild rice at Nett Lake

Ojibwe women parching wild rice at Nett Lake Indian Reservation, ca. 1947. Photograph by Monroe P. Killy.

Parched wild rice

Parched wild rice

Parched wild rice at Nett Lake. Photograph by Monroe P. Killy, September 6, 1947.

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