Last year we ran a story on the Manoomin Project, a program in which at-risk teens restore wild rice to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with help from American Indian tribes. Click through to read a feature by Greg Peterson about this ground-breaking Michigan initiative that’s now in its 4th year. You can also scroll to the bottom for a YouTube video featuring photos from the 2007 planting.
Native American guide Don Chosa
points out wild rice beds to his son
Delayed six weeks due to extremely low water levels, teenagers, an American Indian guide and volunteers on Saturday held the fourth annual planting of wild rice in a project aimed at restoring the once abundant grain to northern Michigan.
The groundbreaking Manoomin Project has teamed hundreds of at-risk teens with American Indian guides who have planted over a ton of wild rice since the summer of 2004 .
Manoomin means wild rice in Ojibwa.
Wild rice disappeared from Michigan over a century ago and is a vital part of Native American ceremonies and traditions.
“You are the first ones to bring wild rice back to the area,” the teens were told by American Indian guide Dave Anthony of Marquette. “I am pleased that you are here and what you are doing today is very important.”
“This is very, very significant, this is a gift from the creator, it’s food grown on the water,” said Anthony, who attends Northern Michigan University (NMU) and belongs to the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa (Ottawa) Indian based in Harbor Springs, MI. “Wild rice is the original North American grain and is very nutritious.”
The importance of the project was not lost on the teens who picked up a few Ojibwa words.
Danny ‘broadcasts’ or spreads
wild rice seeds into the Dead River
“Megwiich,” said Danny Carello, 13, of Ishpeming saying “thank you” to nature in Ojibwa while carefully tossing wild rice seeds into a small pond along the Dead River.
Shawn Molda, 15, of Gwinn said he learned that wild rice develops in stages including the “floating stage.”
Anthony taught a special blessing to the teenagers and adults volunteers like Marquette County Juvenile Court child care counselor Jim Rule.
After a prayer, Anthony passed out a small amount of crumbled leaf tobacco to each participant who sprinkled the flakes into the river as a symbol of thanks for the planting.
This year’s planting was delayed from mid-September because wild rice seeds were not available from Wisconsin tribes due to extremely low water levels that have had a major negative effect on this year’s crop.
On a Saturday in November, the teens planted four pails of wild rice by carefully tossing the seed into slow spots in the Dead River near Marquette
The wild rice seeds are from Minnesota and were planted less than 48 hours before an approaching major winter storm.
Manoomin Project volunteer Tom Reed of Marquette, Michigan said the at-risk youth volunteer to plant and study wild rice “in lieu of community service.”
“This is about educating the kids and not about punishment,” said Reed.
Greg Peterson is a UP news reporter and volunteer media advisor for the Manoomin Project, the Earth Keeper Inititiative and the Turtle Island Project – all interfaith environment projects involving youth, Native Americans and 9 faith communities with 140 churches/temples.