The 13 Moons Tribal College Extension Program, 1854 Treaty Authority, and the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College’s Gidakiimanaaniwigamig STEM Camp hosted the annual Wild Rice / Manoomin Demonstration Camp on Saturday, September 11, 2021. During the camp, participants learned how to harvest rice from start to finish. “From teaching how to sustainably harvest or “knock” the rice without breaking the stems to drying, parching, and winnowing the rice to get the final product that ends up at our dining room table…” said Courtney Kowalczak, Director of the Environmental Institute at FDLTCC, “…Each step is a process that is time consuming but ensures that we are appreciating the gift of the rice and taking care of this important resource.” The camp took place at Leeman Lake and was open to anyone interested in learning Wild Rice. Some of the participants that came to the camp to learn about rice harvesting from experienced ricers and Elders included youth Gidakiimanaaniwigamig campers and their families, brought by Ron Willis.
Event participants learned respect for the rice and how to harvest sustainably from Fond du Lac Museum Director and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Elder, Jeff Savage and Sam Greensky. Mr. Savage also brought out a birch bark canoe that was made by FDL community members using traditional ways.
Phil Savage from 13 Moons hosted a pole and knocker making demonstration and provided food for everyone at the camp. Camp participants practiced the following Wild Rice steps during the camp:
- Harvest: By using a push pole and knockers, harvesters poled through rice beds being careful not to rip out the rice plants or knock stems to the point of breaking them. This step and others were taught by Marne Kaeske from the 1854 Treaty Authority.
- Drying: Rice from the lake is laid out on tarps in the sun to dry the rice and pick out any stems, or any other debris that could be mixed in with the harvested rice
- Parching: Using a cast iron kettle over a controlled fire, the rice is parched until the outer husk is ready to be removed from the rice. Sam Greensky, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Elder, taught participants how to parch the rice and spoke about proper harvesting techniques.
- Dancing on the rice: Wearing moccasins or soft canvas a lighter person (usually young people) dance on the rice in a small side to side motion to remove the dried husks from the rice kernel
- Winnowing: The danced rice is put in a shallow winnowing basket and expertly tossed (this is a skill!) so that the wind can be used to blow off the chaff
- The last step is picking through the rice to remove the last of the husks and leave the beautiful rice that is ready to be cooked. Marne Kaeske provided a new mechanical rice thresher purchased by 1854 Treaty Authority to help demonstrate this final step.
For more information about the Wild Rice / Manoomin Demonstration Camp contact Courtney Kowalczak, Director of the Environmental Institute at FDLTCC, by email at courtneyk*AT*fdltcc.edu.