Friday, August 8, 2008

PS 87-151: Native Wild Rice Coalition’s cultural and ecological restoration

Scott Herron1, Patrick Robinson2, Earl Hoagland3, William Paulson3, Peter David4, Deborah M. Zak5, and Rebecca Power2. (1) Ferris State University, (2) University of Wisconsin-Extension, (3) Sahkahtay Indigenous Preservation Society, (4) Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, (5) University of Minnesota Extension

A multi-state effort to revitalize and restore the wild rice communities of the western Great Lakes (both cultural and ecological), utilizing a multicultural, coalition building model, will be highlighted. The question of how to create a sustained resurgence of the communities of people who harvest and process native wild rice, while restoring and maintaining vibrant, ecologically resilient wild rice beds (managed populations of non-paddy grown, native wild rice) has been examined by the Native Wild Rice Coalition. The planning and outcomes of a regional wild rice conference, as well as our training model for traditional wild rice camps in Minnesota (to be replicated across Michigan and Wisconsin in upcoming wild rice seasons) will be discussed. The training model was developed by the Sah Kah Tay Indigenous Preservation Society whose mission is to restore balance of indigenous communities and the land through the revitalization and practice of indigenous values, life ways, religions, and sciences. The overall goal of this project partner is to build capacity of their existing programs to increase income generating opportunities including agro ecology, agro forestry, harvesting, processing and reseeding natural wild rice; strengthening families, and fostering a sense of belonging and shared responsibility for the well-being of each other and the land. The methodologies at the rice camps included how to make, by hand, traditional wild rice processing equipment, such as knocking sticks, pushing poles and winnowing baskets. The traditional production methods used included hand harvesting, parching, jigging and winnowing.
This cultural restoration is dependent upon a healthy ecological system capable of supporting the wild rice beds utilized by the human and non-human communities.  Thus cultural restoration is advancing in concert with ecological restoration of some of the lost abundance of wild rice.
Outcomes assessment from the regional conference and rice camps will be presented to help illustrate the participant-guided, coalition-focused flexibility across land grant institutions, tribes, citizen groups, extension agencies, intertribal resource management agencies, and teaching colleges and universities. Successful ecological restorations will also be highlighted.  The project enhanced regional cooperation and collaboration among tribal communities, 1994 land-grant institutions, 1862-land grant institutions, and other diverse partners interested in preserving wild rice. This project also further enhanced the multicultural understanding of participants and further strengthened the multicultural partnerships necessary to sustain this important grain.