The Sacred Grain of the Northwoods

A story about wild rice, an endangered, sacred part of Native culture and identity across the Great Lakes region,

“Each year in autumn, the Anishinaabeg people take to the lakes of northern Minnesota to harvest wild rice, the only grain native to North America. They travel in pairs: one person to row and the other to gently knock the grains into the bed of the canoe with a long pole. This is how they’ve harvested wild rice for centuries.”

– “The Sacred Grain of the Northwest,” Roads & Kingdoms, May 5, 2016

For a while there during 2015 and 2016 I found myself writing a lot about Midwest agriculture, food, and culture. It was a function of my favorite venue at the time, Roads & Kingdoms, a very cool site that also had a great collaboration with Anthony Bourdain that I contributed to. I had been writing about China for them, and to continue the relationship when I moved to Minnesota, I had to find interesting topics to write about that combined culture, food, travel, and social/political issues.

Wild rice in northern Minnesota fit the bill for this story. I had the opportunity to drive north to Bemidji and the Leech Lake reservation a few times to camp, visit some wild rice processors, and learn about the sacred grain from Leech Lake and White Bear Anishinaabeg.

I also ended up campiong for a few days at a Born Again Christian Bluegrass Festival, but that’s another story, to be told another time.

Click here to read the full story, “The Sacred Grain of the Northwoods.”

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Sascha Matuszak

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