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HomeIndigenous NewsUpcoming gathering to connect Anishinaabe wild rice harvesters – Anishinabek News

Upcoming gathering to connect Anishinaabe wild rice harvesters – Anishinabek News


Lakehead University researcher Keira Loukes shared some photos of manomin processing from the Alderville area. – Photo supplied

By Rick Garrick

BIIGTIGONG NISHNAABEG — Lakehead University researcher Keira Loukes and Biigtigong Nishnaabeg educator Rhonda Lyons are looking forward to holding the Following Manoomin: Connecting Anishinaabe Harvesters through the Manoomin Harvesters’ Gathering in September at Whitefish Lake.

Loukes, principal investigator for the research gathering and assistant professor at Lakehead University’s School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism who has been harvesting manomin (wild rice) since 2020, is receiving a one-year Connection Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in the amount of $24,996 for the research gathering, which is scheduled for Sept. 13-15 and includes partners Anishinaabek Employment and Training Services and Biigtigong Nishnaabeg Endzhi-gkinoohmaading Elementary School.

“This kind of grant is a connection grant so basically we’re just trying to get people connected,” Loukes says, noting that she met with Lyons last fall before she brought some of her students out to learn how to harvest manomin at Lyons’ camp on Whitefish Lake, located about 65 kilometres west of Thunder Bay. “We were talking about manomin and learning how to harvest, she was talking about her journey in learning and I was chatting about my learning how to harvest manomin in my grandfather’s community (Mississaugas of Alderville). I had just moved to Thunder Bay and was missing the harvest down south, so it was nice to do that again.”

Loukes says they realized that many other people would likely be interested in learning about harvesting manomin as well.

“Wouldn’t it be great to bring a bunch of harvesters together to share some of the knowledge that they’ve learned, some of the challenges they’re facing in either revitalizing or maintaining manomin?” Loukes says. “Some of that has to do with challenges relating to hydro projects or other people who are living on the lakes or the regions. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a group that we could connect with when those issues came up?”

Loukes says Jeff Beaver, an Alderville citizen who has restored and documented manomin beds in Treaty 20 territory, previously showed her some old maps of Rice Lake, which Alderville is located on.

“All of those lakes were full of rice; Rice Lake specifically was 17 miles long full of rice,” Loukes says. “And then when it was full of rice, Jeff was telling me it was also full of muskrats so people were eating really well. There’s pictures of people going out and harvesting rice, but they also have their shotguns because they’re also going bird hunting at the same time because the birds loved eating the rice. So really, there is so much food security, so much governance, so much food sovereignty there, but then the Trent-Severn waterway flooded out that lake, too, and a lot of the rice has been lost, but people have been reseeding lakes around that region so it is coming back.”

Loukes says the main goal of the gathering is to build relationships with each other.

“What we’re hoping is that this may, depending on how people want to do it, create a network,” Loukes says. “The September weekend is like the kickoff and then we’re planning to have meetings again in the winter and the spring.”

Lyons, owner at Anishinaabe Wild Rice Experience and principal of adult education at Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, says she began learning about harvesting manomin more than 10 years ago.

“I started learning from my auntie and my grandmother and then I would go out every year to harvest,” Lyons says. “You’ve got to do it carefully not to break the plant, so you’re just knocking gently, the rice will fall into the canoe. I do a couple of taps, grab the other side and it’s very enjoyable, I’d say healing, a way of connecting to the land, to the water, and with each other because you’re with each other in the canoe.”

Lyons says harvesting manomin is part of her family’s history.

“My grandparents did that, there’s been a lot of ancestral knowledge tied to this lake,” Lyons says. “With Residential School there was an interruption of learning, my mom was sent away, and that wasn’t passed on to me. But I grew up with it, I knew what wild rice was because it was always there as part of ceremony at my grandparents, and as I got older I wanted to learn more.”

Lyons says they show the whole manomin process, which includes the collection, cleaning, roasting and two ways of finishing to remove the husk, either through a machine or by dancing on the manomin, at Anishinaabe Wild Rice Experience.

“Usually, I leave that for the youth to dance on it because they’re lighter in weight,” Lyons says. “Then we do the final cleaning and it’s ready for cooking. It’s a two-day experience, that’s what I offer, hands-on learning.”



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