15 September 2019

Facts of Manomin or Wild Rice

It's the middle of wild rice season here in northern Minnesota.  I've been "ricing" since I was 12 years old.  It's one of our staple foods.  *For those who don't know or don't want to read my profile, I am Anishinabekwe, or a Chippewa woman, born and raised on the rez.  I was looking up something about rice worms and came across a forum post from 2004 regarding cooking rice. 

Now, for those who don't know, I will explain what's all involved in "ricing" from the beginning of the season to the end. 

Three to four weeks, one checks that one's equipment is in good working order.  These include:
1. canoe: fill with water in unsure if there's leaks
2. paddles: make sure they're in good condition. Else you'll have to buy new ones.
3. knocking sticks: Same thing, good condition.  Either buy new ones from someone who makes them or make your own.
4. push pole: Is the "duckbill" working?  Is the pole in good condition?  I, myself, prefer a 14-15 foot pole.  Either buy a new one or have someone make one, or make it yourself.
5. bags with strings: These must be checked and if one marks these one "Green rice" then one knows if one should purchase more.  Generally, I do buy a few. 
6. get a partner if one doesn't have one.  One knocks the rice into the canoe, one poles.  I am a poler, although I do know how to knock. 

If one is going to hand parch:
1. parcher, metal cause for sure I'm gonna get a comment bout that. If it's not in good condition, then you'll have to have a welder make one for you. Can't think off hand what kind of metal as my father used to make sure we had one.  Some people like the old style cast iron kettles. 
2. Push paddles: We use a long, double sided square, bout 6 to 8 feet long by 4 feet wide, parcher so the paddles we use are bout 12x12 inches square thin plywood attached to an 8 foot pole.
3. wood: We prefer poplar.  This varies on how one likes their rice and what flavors one prefers. Some use jack pine cause it makes a hotter fire.  How much you need depends on how much rice  you're going to parch.  We usually get at least one rick cause we generally know how much we eat during the year.
4. fire pit: Are the rocks lining it in good shape? 
5. stand for parcher: Does the parcher fit?
6. cloth or wood box to cool the rice before storing: Is this in good condition?  If not, must be replaced.
7. bags to transport the rice to a thresher: These should be marked, generally we use our name.  The thresher then puts the threshed rice in a plastic bag and replaces it in this one.
8. zip lock bags to store the rice in for cooking. 

Day the lake opens:
1. Obtain permits, Tribal if ricing on tribal land, state if ricing on state lakes. 
2. Transport canoe, basically everything listed in the first section, to the lake and wait for correct time to go on the lake. 
3. Paddle to the rice beds and proceed to gather as much as you can in the time alloted.
4. Return to shore at the time one is supposed to be hitting the shore.  One must be on shore at the correct time or risk confiscation of equipment.
5. Remove extraneous stuff from the rice before bagging the rice.
6. Bag the rice, hoping you have too many bags vs. not enough. 
7. Transport all to residence or where ever one is going to parch.  Otherwise, sell your "green rice" to those who are buying "green rice". 

Hand parching, one must make sure there's enough time left in the day to parch what you have.  If not, and you are going to parch the next day, leave the rice in a good spot where it won't get wetter.  If you are going to wait for a couple days (rainy day) then you'll have to have a spot roughly the size of a queen bedsheet to spread the rice out to start the drying process.  WET RICE SPOILS VERY FAST!  Now do not mention the fact that I am shouting with all those capital letters.  I would bold, and highlight it also. 

Part II