Institute is partnering with local schools, governments and
community-based organizations on a collaborative project to restore
native wild rice to wetlands in the River Raisin Watershed.
activities began at Bolles Harbor in Monroe, Mich. Teachers and
students experimented with three methods for re-seeding wild rice at
the Charles and June Knabusch Mathematics and Science Center
in May 2008. Students transplanted seedlings that were sown in March
and kept in aquariums until planting. They also placed seed balls,
formed by rolling wild rice seeds inside clay, in the shallows of the wetland near the center.
the last method of scattering wild rice seeds by hand, the students
were escorted to DTE Energy property where they broadcast seeds into
Lake Erie near the shoreline.
to the seeded areas in the fall but they did not observe any
established wild rice beds. Wild rice is a plant species that is
sensitive to its environment and can be difficult to re-establish. It
is also common to see rice beds becoming established years after the
reseeding efforts. The seeded areas will continue to be monitored.
the reseeded wild rice becomes established, public workshops will be
planned to demonstrate harvesting and processing methods as well as
explaining nutritional and health benefits.
December 2008, Bill Paulson of the Anishinabeg Ojibwe Nation and Sah
Kah Tay Indigenous Preservation Society on the White Earth Reservation
in Minnesota presented a wild rice processing demonstration for the
students and staff at Knabusch Mathematics and Science. He and Mike
Neumann showed the students and faculty Native American methods for
preparing the wild rice for human consumption.
first step is parching the wild rice. Students helped prepare the
parching site by digging a hole to create an earthen wall behind a
metal kettle and building a fire behind it. They stirred the wild rice
with a wooden paddle and the heat of the fire dried the rice loosening
the husk from the seed. On the reservation, old men perform this job as
they can sit and share the stories and history of their people.
seed is then transferred to a tarp-covered hole for the next step in
the process of jigging. Two poles are tied to a tree to steady the
dancer. This is a task reserved for the young teenagers as the wild
rice is not crushed by their weight. Drum and song keeps the tempo
while the youth dances on the rice. Using their heels, they slowly
crush the husks against the side of the hole. Here, a canvas tarp
covers this hole instead of the traditional deerskin hide. The dancer
wears ceremonial moccasins made for the purpose of jigging. The
moccasins never come in direct contact with dirt or the ground.
last step is called winnowing. This is a technique that requires a
certain amount of skill and is usually a task performed by the elder
women on the reservation. As Bill gently tossed the wild rice into the
air and the husks drifted away on the breeze. The heavier, finished
rice fell back into the birch bark basket hand-made by an elder on the
White Earth Reservation. The basket was then presented as a gift to he
Knabusch Mathematics and Science Center.
Following the demonstration, students and faculty sampled tasty, simple dishes made with wild rice, venison and vegetables.
institute received permission from the Michigan Department of Natural
Resources to reseed locally native lower lake wild rice (zizania aquatica var. aquatica)
in wetlands at Sterling State Park in Monroe, Mich.. Volunteers
continue to search for an established seed source site for the lower
lake wild rice. Future reseeding and restoration activities are also
planned for areas at Bolles Harbor, Sisters Island and along the Mason
Run drain tributary.
This project is the first planned activity as part of the long-term restoration goal as identified in the Watershed Monitoring Project.