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r iv e r s o f t h e n o r t h . S p u d F in e d a y r e m e m b e r s r i c i n g s in c e h e w as a c h i ld ; it is a c om m u n i ty e v e n t , a cu ltu r a l e v e n t , w h ich ties th e c o m m u n i ty in t e r g e n e r a t i o n a l l y to all t h a t is essen tia lly A n is h in a a b e g , O jibw e.

As t h e s to ry is to ld , N a n a b o o z h o o , t h e c u l t u r a l h e r o o f t h e A n i s h i n a a b e g w as i n t r o d u c e d to r ic e , by f o r tu n e , a n d by a d u ck .

“ . . . O n e e v e n in g N a n a b o o z h o o r e t u r n e d f rom h u n t i n g , b u t h e h a d n o g am e . . . As h e c am e to w a rd s his f i r e , h e saw a d u c k s i t t in g o n th e e d g e o f h is k e t t le o f b o i l in g w ater. A f t e r t h e d u c k f lew aw a y , N a n a b o o z h o o lo o k e d in to th e k e t t le a n d f o u n d w ild r ic e f lo a t in g u p o n th e w a te r , b u t h e d id n o t know w h a t it was. H e a te h is s u p p e r f ro m th e k e t tle , a n d i t was th e b e s t s o u p h e h a d e v e r ta s te d . L a te r , h e fo llo w ed in th e d i r e c t io n w h ic h th e d u c k h a d ta k en , a n d c am e to a lake fu ll o f manoomin. H e saw all k in d s o f d u c k s a n d geese a n d m u d h e n s , a n d a l l t h e o t h e r w a t e r b i r d s e a t in g t h e g r a in . A f te r th a t , w h e n N a n a b o o z h o o d id n o t kill a d e e r , h e k n ew w h e r e to f in d fo od to e a t . . .”

M a n o o m in o r w i ld r i c e is a g if t g iv e n to th e A n is h in a a b e g f ro m th e C r e a to r , a n d is a c e n t r e p ie c e o f su s t e n a n c e f o r o u r c o m m u n i t y . T h e w o rd manoom in i ts e lf co n ta in s a r e f e r e n c e t o t h e C r e a t o r , w h o is r e f e r r e d to as Gitchi M an id oo . I n th e e a r l ie s t o f te a c h in g s o f A n is h in a a b e g h is to ry , th e r e is a r e f e r e n c e to wild r ic e , k n ow n as th e fo od w h ich grow s u p o n th e w ater, th e fo od th e an c e s to r s w e r e to ld to f in d — t h e n we w o id d know w h e n to e n d o u r m ig r a t io n to th e west. I t is th is p r o f o u n d , a n d h i s t o r i c r e l a t i o n s h i p w h ic h is r e m e m b e r e d in th e w ild r ice h a r v e s t o n th e W h i te E a r th a n d o t h e r r e s e r v a t io n s . I t is a fo od w h ich is u n i q u e ly o u r s , a n d a fo o d w h ich is u s e d in o u r d a i ly lives, o u r c e r em o n ie s a n d o u r t h a n k s g i v i n g f e a s ts . I t is t h a t s am e w ild r ice w h ich ex em p l i f ie s th e w o r ld w id e d e b a te o n issues o f b io d i versity, c u l tu r e a n d g lo ba liz a tio n .

Making W ild R ice T h e c r i s p n e s s o f e a r l y a u t u m n t o u c h e s m y f a c e a s w e p a d d l e t h r o u g h th e r ice o n B la c kb ird Lake. F o u r eag le s fly o v e r h e a d a n d a flock o f g e e se m oves g rac e fu l ly acro ss th e sky. l h r o u g h th e r ic e , I c an see offic e r s o f th e law, e n s c o n c e d in th e i r w o r k . T h e y a r e r i c i n g . E u g e n e C l a r k , a k a B e e b z o (O g em a M a y o r a n d B e ck e r C o u n ty D e p u ty S h e r if f ) a n d J o h n M a cA rth u r , a M a h n om e n C o u n t y S h e r i f f , a r e A n i s h in a a b e g , a n d th e y a r e po l ic e o ffic ers. T o d ay th e y a r e c o n t i n u i n g t h e h a r v e s t in g t r a d i t i o n . A s t h e y m o v e s w i f t l y t h r o u g h th e r ic e b e d , M a cA r th u r is k n o c k in g a n d C la rk is p o l in g . C la rk s t a r t e d r i c i n g a t f o u r t e e n , a n d is f i f t y - t h r e e n o w ; M a c A r t h u r t o o b e g a n r ic in g as a te e n a g e r . “W e ’r e o u t l ie r e to e a t , n o t to m a k e m o n e y ,” t h e y te l l m e . T h e y a r e r i c i n g f o r t h e i r f a m i l i e s . T h a t d a y t h e y b r o u g h t in 2 0 0 p o u n d s o f g r e e n r ic e . R o n n i e C h i l to n is w o r k i n g a t th e N a t iv e H a r v e s t r ice mill. H e to o h a s a lo n g c o n n e c t io n to r ic in g , “ I ’ve r ic e d my w ho le life, m o s t o f th e tim e w i th m y d a d . ” H e e q u a t e s r i c i n g w ith a p a r t o f his fam i ly ’s t r a d i t io n a n d w ish es h e was o n a la ke, r ig h t w h e n I am in te rv ie w in g h im .

I t ’s sa id t h a t t h e r e a r e few e r rice b u y e r s th is y e a r o n th e r e s e rv a t io n , a l t h o u g h B e e b z o m a i n t a i n s t h a t “th e r e w e re m o r e p e o p l e a t th e r ice p e rm i t d r aw in g (fo r T am a r a c Lakes) t h a n v o te in m o s t e le c t io n s ” . T h e r e a r e a lso lo ts o f r ic e rs . By tw o w eeks in to r i c i n g s e a s o n , N a t iv e H a r v e s t b o u g h t r i c e f r o m t h i r t y o r f o r t y r i c e r s . T h e r e is a lw a y s a d e b a t e a b o u t r i c e c r o p — l a s t y e a r w a s d e e m e d by m a n y to b e b e t t e r th a n th e p r e v io u s few. H ow ever, B ig Rice L ak e , in th e n o r th -w e s t c o r n e r o f th e r e s e rv a t io n , is se en as th e S h a n g r i- la o f r ice — th e p a r a d i s e f o r r ic e rs . Any less o f a c r o p o n t h a t la ke, a n d th e o p in io n s will fly as to th e cause. T h e r e a s o n s a r e sp e cu la tiv e : h ig h w a te r levels, a g r ic u l tu r a l h e r b ic id e ru n -o f f , t h e u s u a l s u s p e c t s . “ I t u s e d to be y o u w o u ld g e t lost in th e r ice o n th a t la k e ,” Russell W a r re n , a tw en ty -y e a r r ice p r o c e s s e r te lls m e . “T h e y u se d to h av e to p u t flags u p a t th e l a n d in g s , so y o u c o u l d f in d y o u r way back. I t ’s th e fe r t i l iz e r th a t r u in s th e c r o p . ” T h e r e ’s m u c h d is c u s s io n by r ic e rs a b o u t th e s ta tu s o f th e c ro p . I n t e r n a t io n a l m a rk e ts a n d th e i r su b s e q u e n t im p a c t o n local p r o d u c t i o n r e m a i n a m a jo r fac to r. T h e r e m ay well b e a d im in i s h e d in t e r e s t in th e N a t i v e h a r v e s t e d r i c e , as t h e b ig f o o d c o m p a n i e s , U n c l e B e n ’s, G o u r m e t H o u s e , a n d t h e o t h e r s , d r i v e e v e n p a d d y - g r o w n w ild r ic e o u t o f t h e s ta te .

T h i s y e a r th e US D e p a r tm e n t o f A g r i c u l t u r e d i s c u s s e s a p r o b a b l e 10% d e c l in e o f t h e f a rm e r s in th e n o r th -w e s t r e g io n . T h e t r a n s f o rm a t io n o f a g r i c u l tu r e f ro m fam ily fa rm s to la rg e c o r p o r a t e f a rm s is m i r r o r e d in th e w ild r ice in d u s t ry . T h e e n a c t m e n t o f m u l t i l a t e r a l t r a d e a g r e e m e n t s (e .g . GATT) m e a n s th a t , fo r t h e firs t t im e , m u l t in a t io n a l c o r p o r a t io n s a r e w i th in r e a c h o f c o n t ro l l in g t h e p l a n e t ’s g e n e t i c w e a l th . T o d a y c o r p o r a t e a g r ib u s in e s s m a n u f a c tu r e s a n d m a rk e t s o v e r 95% o f t h e fo od in t h e US. We a r e in c re a s in g ly r e l i a n t u p o n a sm a ll g r o u p o f c o r p o r a t io n s f o r fo od . O n a w o r ld w id e scale p e o p le c o n s u m e 7 ,0 00 v a r ie t ie s o f p la n t , on ly 150 o f w h ich a r e com m e rc ia l ly im p o r t a n t , a n d a b o u t 103 a c c o u n t f o r 90% o f th e w o r l d ’s fo o d c ro p s . T h i s c o n c e n t r a t io n o f fo od p r o d u c t i o n d im i n i s h e s lo c a l c o n t r o l o v e r fo od . I t a lso d im in is h e s th e in te g r i ty o f e a c h v a r ie ty o f fo od , a n d t h r e a t e n s th e d iv e rs i ty w h ic h is th e b e a u ty o f t h e m i c r o - b r e w e r i e s , t h e sm a l l d a i r i e s a n d local f a rm p r o d u c e r s .

T h e c o n c e n t r a t io n in f ew e r h a n d s o f n o t on ly fo o d p r o d u c t i o n b u t th e se ed s th em s e lv e s has b e c om e a sig n i f ic a n t c o n t ro v e r s y as local v a r ie t ie s d i s a p p e a r . P a te n t s a r e b o u g h t a n d s o l d , a n d t h e a c t u a l l i f e i t s e l f b e c om e s a m a r k e t com m od ity . M any o f t h e s e e d c o m p a n i e s h a v e b e e n a c q u i r e d by m u l t in a t io n a l ch em ic a l c o r p o r a t i o n s . A c c o rd in g to a r e c e n t issu e o f Consum er Reports m a g a z in e , M o n s a n to , f o r e x a m p l e , h a s s p e n t n e a r l y $8 b i l l io n s in c e 1996, p u r c h a s in g se ed c om p a n ie s . D u p o n t is b u y i n g P i o n e e r H i - B r e d a n d , a c c o r d in g to W o r ld w a tc h I n s t i t u t e , t h e s e c o m b i n e d p u r c h a s e s m a k e D u p o n t a n d M o n s a n to , respectively, t h e w o r l d ’s firs t- a n d s e c o n d - la rg e s t s e e d com p a n ie s .

A s im i la r c o n c e n t r a t io n is u n d e r way in th e w ild r ic e in d u s t ry . M in n e s o t a ’s cu l t iv a te d p a d d y “wild r ic e ” p r o d u c t i o n b e g a n a g g r e s s i v e l y in 1968, r e p r e s e n t i n g som e 20% o f th e s t a t e ’s c r o p o f th a t year. P a d d y r ice p r o d u c t i o n in c r e a s e d t h e a v a i la b le q u a n t i t i e s o f c u l t iv a te d “w ild r ic e ” , a n d by 1973 h a d in c r e a s e d th e y ie ld t o s o m e 4 m i l l i o n p o u n d s . T h e i n c r e a s e in t h e p r o d u c t i o n , a n d i n t e r e s t by th e l a r g e r c o r p o r a t i o n s (e.g. U n c le B e n ’s, G r e e n G ia n t a n d G e n e r a l F o o d s ) i n m a n y w a y s sk ew ed p e r c e p t io n s o f w ild r ice a n d a l t e r e d t h e m a r k e t o f t r a d i t i o n a l w ild r ic e . I n 1977, t h e M in n e s o t a s t a t e l e g i s l a t u r e d e s i g n a t e d “w i ld r ic e ” M in n e s o ta ’s “official g r a i n ”.

T h a t w a s p e r h a p s t h e k is s o f d e a t h f o r t h e la k e w ild r ic e c r o p .

R e s u r g e n c e N o . 2 0 0 M a y / J u n e 2 0 0 0 4 9

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