Rice Goes Wild – Minnesota’s Harvest

You can’t buy your culture at the store. You have to live it.
Winona LaDuke

Growing and harvesting wheat in much of eastern Washington and western Montana has become part of the “culture of agribusiness.” Endless fields of grain planted and harvested by armies of machinery are tributes to the culture of big.

Wild rice ready for harvest.

The "poler" is on the left, the "knocker" is on the right.

On small lakes in northern Minnesota, a different kind of wheat is harvested in near silence. Every fall, the Ojibwe tribes harvest rice by hand, from canoes. It takes two – one with a pole to pull the rice into the canoe and the second with two “knockers” – flat paddle-like sticks that brush the rice off the stems.

The tribes who collect the rice call domesticated “wild” rice – often treated with fungicides and chemicals and harvested with combines – “tame rice.”

Listen to Winona LaDuke and members of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg who live and work on the White Earth Reservation as they go ricing in Minnesota.

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