Protection of Tribal Uses of Water: A Traditional Perspective on Manoomin
(Originally published in the Odawa Trails December 2015 issue)
On September 24, 2015 the Environmental Services Program hosted “Protection of Tribal Uses of Water: A Traditional Perspective on Manoomin” at Spirit (Wycamp) Lake. The goal of the event was to bring to light that certain tribal uses of water, such as growing manoomin (wild rice), are not protected under state or federal water quality regulations. The Water Quality Standards Workgroup aims to create and pass LTBB water quality legislation, which is imperative to the sustainment of these uses. The proposed legislation would protect for uses like manoomin areas, fishing, hunting, cultural/ceremonial, and swimming, as well as general water quality. Along with its own website, the Water Quality Standards Workgroup will survey LTBB citizens and give out promotional items. You can take the survey and check out the website at: www.nibiishnaagdowen.com.
In addition to the Water Quality Standards Workgroup, which has a broader focus, there is also a Wild Rice Workgroup open to anyone who is interested. Contact Dawn Sineway-Nephler at 231-242-1487 or DNightlinger@LTBBODAWA-NSN.GOV for details.
The September event was a huge success with 80 attendees, including many of the youth brought by the Youth Services Department. Guest speakers at the event were Dan Hinmon, Lee Sprague and Roger Labine. The first half of the listening session was devoted to a visit of the rice growing on Spirit Lake. A small stand of manoomin (approximately 0.13 acres) on the east basin of the lake had unfortunately been eaten after reaching a mature stage, most likely by ducks and geese. It became unsafe to visit the stand because of high winds, so Hinmon and Sprague used a canoe on land to demonstrate how to harvest wild rice using rice sticks and a push pole. Labine then began with a demonstration on parching rice, “dancing” on the rice, and winnowing. People were encouraged to try various steps of the traditional rice processing. Following the talks on traditional harvesting and processing, Kris Dey, LTBB NRD Fish and Wildlife Senior Research Technician, demonstrated the use of a modern way to dance and winnow, using a mechanical rice thresher. Along with Youth Conservation Corps Leader Lauren Dey, he spent roughly a week building a rice thresher, which is a machine that paddles the rice around a hopper and blows the chaff off and out of the machine. Also called the “Manoominator”, the rice thresher does the work of dancing and winnowing, making the process less labor-intensive. The rice thresher will be available for use in the future once LTBB rice is harvestable.
Before a dinner of manoomin dishes, Netawn Kiogima discussed the importance of water to the Odawa people and was joined by young women in the community for a water ceremony and prayer. Hinmon and Sprague gave a push pole demonstration on the lake later in the evening. After dinner, Daugherty “Duffy” Johnson III gave a presentation on the Water Quality Standards Workgroup, relating manoomin to the need for tribal water quality protections. The Water Quality Standards Workgroup and the event are products of the LTBB Water Quality Enhancement grant received from the Administration for Native Americans.
Chi-miigwech to the following: Kira Davis and the Water Quality Standards Workgroup members for getting the ball rolling; our speakers Dan Hinmon, Roger Labine, and Lee Sprague; Wasson Dillard for saying the opening prayer; Youth Services Department staff for bringing the youth; Doug Craven for transporting gear and keeping the fire; Kris and Lauren Dey for building the “Manoominator” and transporting watercraft; Education Department for providing paddles and lifejackets; Netawn Kiogima for leading the water ceremony; Tim Thomas for keeping the fire; the Wild Rice Workgroup for planning; and all who attended, gave input, brought food, and helped clean up.
Roger Labine (center) demonstrates rich parching (heating it up over a heat source).
Lee Sprague (standing with push-pole) mimics pushing Dan Hinmon (sitting in canoe) around a rice lake.
Wiigwaas Craven (center) learns how to parch rice with help from Fred Harrington.
The inside of the “Manoominator” has paddles that push the rice around and loosen the
chaff. The result is rice that is ready to be picked clean and eaten.