After my visit to Chico, California in the huge rice fields I flew to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota via Fargo North Dakota. I was going to be a guest of the White Earth Land Recovery Project which is a non-profit Native organization located on the White Earth Reservation. It was founded in 1989 by grassroots advocate and activist, Winona LaDuke. The organization’s mission is to facilitate the recovery of the original land base of the White Earth Indian Reservation while preserving and restoring traditional practices of sound land stewardship, language fluency, community development, and strengthening the spiritual and cultural heritage. The Native Harvest project provides employment and marketing for the Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe) tribal members in the northern Minnesota region.
I was very honored to be guided by Winona herself. First I went to a library college where I was explained the general outline of the coming of the Ojibwe Indians in this region. Then we went to the new building where the White Earth Land Recovery Project office is located. It is in a former school building and on the day I came they were very proud and excited to be working on a generator to provide wind mill power. Winona also showed me the solar panels that were installed in some of the houses linked with the Project.
We went to one of the numerous lakes where I was shown how to harvest the rice. You thrush the top of the weed with a stick going from one side of the canoe to the other. We welcomed the canoes returning full of the rough wild weed. It is then cleaned and put in big bags to be taken to a gathering warehouse where it is weighed and the men who work so hard are paid by the weight. The next day I went to another warehouse where the rice is parched over fire until it’s perfect in its hues of brown, tan, and green. Then it is sorted and put in bags with the name of the people who brought it in the day before. It is first distributed to the elders, some to people in need, some sold to local shops, and some to be packaged for distribution.
The Manoomin, wild rice, is the heart of who the Anishinaabeg people are. They continue their work to protect the genetic integrity and habitat of the only grain indigenous to North America.