By Todd Marsee, Michigan Sea Grant graphic designer and photographer
At Michigan Sea Grant, we’re honored to work alongside Michigan’s tribal nations as they celebrate, restore, and spread the word about wild rice, or manoomin.
This native plant species once thrived in shallow portions of Michigan’s waterways, before European colonization triggered habitat loss and water quality changes that threatened the plant’s survival. More than just a historical and current food source for tribal communities, manoomin is a sacred plant, a key part of Anishinaabe history, a link to land and culture. Manoomin is usually harvested in August and September during festive wild rice camps and is served during special feasts and used in death rituals.
The Michigan Wild Rice Initiative (MWRI) is a collaboration of the State of Michigan and the twelve federally recognized tribes within Michigan. One of the goals of the MWRI is to educate those who live near rice beds about threats to this native plant, and to raise interest in restoring this nutritious, delicious, and culturally important food.
I represent Michigan Sea Grant as a member of the MWRI outreach and education subcommittee. In 2019, I was invited to join an autumn wild rice camp held by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Alberta, MI. My goal was to photograph the entire process of harvesting from start (making harvesting tools) to finish (packaging the processed wild rice). Find my photos in this Flickr album. Later that year, I presented about wild rice camp at the 2019 Wild Rice Symposium in Baraga, MI.
I came home with a jar of wild rice from that harvest and couldn’t wait to make a breakfast treat that I’d enjoyed at wild rice camp, using a recipe from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.
I never thought of having rice for breakfast — it reminded me of porridge with more texture. I think the longer it is cooked, the softer it will get. I could have cooked mine longer than a half hour and could have added more water to soften it more. I also harvested some fresh native woodland strawberries from our garden and added them to the dish. These strawberries are small, about the size of a blueberry. They were an excellent addition to the recipe.
Wild rice from elsewhere in the world is available in many grocery stores; Great Lakes wild rice may be easier to find online. I encourage you to seek it out and give it a try!
The following information and recipe came from the tag attached to my jar of manoomin and are courtesy of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Natural Resources Department. Visit their website to learn more about wild rice.
From the jar tag: “The manoomin in this jar has been on a great journey. The rice grew wild in cool, clear waters of the Great Lakes Region. These are the gardens of the Great Spirit, the Gichi Manidoo Gitigaan. These ‘good berries’ were harvested by traditional ricers and processed by time-honored methods passed along to this generation by our traditional knowledge keepers. In preparing the grain for food, this manoomin seed has passed through many hands and received many blessings.”
Continued from the tag: “There are ricers out there with a special kinship to aki, nibi and manoomin. When eating manoomin they can discern from which lake the rice grew. Combining blueberries, cranberries, hazelnuts and maple sugar with wild rice is a favorite traditional dish.”
Manoomin (wild rice) with miinan (wild blueberry), mashkiigimin (cranberry), bagaan (hazelnuts), and ziinzibaakwad (maple sugar)
We thank the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Natural Resources Department for sharing this traditional recipe. Makes 4 1-cup servings.
1 cup manoomin (wild rice)
1 Tablespoon dried cranberries
1 Tablespoon dried blueberries
1 Tablespoon chopped hazelnuts
1 Tablespoon maple sugar
- Add all ingredients into a cooking pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a simmer.
- Allow the rice to cook until most of the water is gone (about half an hour).
- Serve and enjoy! You may wish to add more fresh fruit or add warm milk and serve as a breakfast porridge — delicious!