The following was written by our sister from Minisinaakwaang (East Lake) Community of the Rice Lake Band of Mississippi Ojibwe-Anishinaabeg:
Manoomin and my people's ways are important to me. Both of those things are also endangered. That's why this year, we (family, friends and relations) had to organize a group that would somehow try to protect this gift. Our food source and our culture is under attack by the state of Minnesota and other corporate interests. They only understand value in a monetary sense. That's why they have no qualms about poisoning our waters and our communities with the byproducts of manufacture, to the fullest extant possible. In the pursuit of financial gain, they have lost all sense of reason, judgment and perspective. We ask only that our manoomin beds be protected. So that the nourishment received from this plant to our people and our culture, can continue to feed the spirit and body for generations to come.
And I could type for days trying to describe the sheer beauty of the season and all the sensory treasures it holds in store and I could go on even longer about how precious of a gift we consider our sacred food. This is one of the few times a year that our communities have an easier time simply existing. The work is hard but to have some free food, and to engage in the traditions of our ancestors and to really be connected to this good earth....well it makes up for all that sweat and strain, surely. This is the time of year when families get together, stories and jokes are told, the memory is flexed and (sometimes stretched) and the people are generally in good spirits. There is less of a financial strain and stress because of the rice that is sold. Many people are able to supplement their children's clothes, pay bills and maybe even buy a car to be able make it to school, job, next seasonal work, hospital and grocery store. For one time of the whiteman's billing year - it's not so hard making ends meet. These examples and so many more, are why I love Manoominike giizis and our ricing culture.
My Dad always tells this lil story illustrating of the manoomin harvest to our Anishinaabeg communities. When he was a very young boy, his father, my grandfather took him out on Mud lake to rice. As they were going along, they came across another pair of ricers. As they came close my dad could see that it was a one armed poler and a blind knocker. They talked Indian to my grampa and made the motions for asking for a drink of water. To which my grandfather passed them a canteen to drink. They drank and made their way on, the one armed poler and his partner, the sightless knocker. Moving on through the bed to continue that hard work known as ricing. And my father and his dad went on their way. It was impressed upon my father at that moment and down to me by that story, of how important that manoomin is to our people. That even in the most hard times, especially in the hard times, and in whatever physical condition, our people would continue to rice. Like my father says "Because that's what you do. How else are you gonna take care of your family? Jobs may not last. And you're gonna have to know how to put some food on the table. It's there and it's free and all you gotta do is go get it." My dad always closes that tale with a look of astonishment and surprise and the same sentence - "A blind knocker and a one armed poler - now, that's DETERMINATION.
Mii sa go