Sudbury·Audio

Wikwemikong residents restart traditional wild rice harvest

The traditional practice of harvesting and processing wild rice is being revived in First Nations on Manitoulin Island.

"We lost harvesting it, we lost the practice," program facilitator says

People from Wikwemikong harvest wild rice near Killary in northern Ontario. (Supplied)
Five years ago, community members from Wikwemikong on Manitoulin Island started a Wild Rice Restoration Program. 7:24

The traditional practice of harvesting and processing wild rice is being revived in First Nations on Manitoulin Island.

The practice had almost died out, but five years ago community members from Wikwemikong started a Wild Rice Restoration Program, said Mary Ellen Kitchikake, the program facilitator.

A crop of Mnoomin, as the rice is traditionally known, was planted. It was recently harvested and processed using traditional methods.

"We lost harvesting it, we lost the practice," she said. "Some of our people lost the language. It's the same thing."

Brings community together

Elders in the community remember harvesting wild rice, Kitchikake said, and they suggested restoring the traditional food would be a good way to bring the community together.

Wild rice grows in shallow water and Kitchikake said a canoe was used to assist in the harvest.​ Elders were also involved with the harvest, and for at least one, it was emotional.

"She was crying because she couldn't believe that we are doing this. And she heard from stories back that her great grandmother was harvesting the wild rice," she said.

The community parched the rice and danced on it in a pit to loosen the husks. It was then transferred to a birch basket and tossed to remove the husks.

The community also plans to hold a cooking workshop using the rice that has been harvested, Kitchikake said.

Members of Wikwemikong are reviving traditional knowledge around harvesting wild rice. (supplied)

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