First we must consider Manoomin

Manoomin (Ojibwe) or Psiη (Dakota) (wild rice, Zizania palustris)is an aquatic grass with highly nutritious grains that has long grown in shallow waterways throughout the Great Lakes region. To the Ojibwe tribes across the region it is a sacred food, medicine, and gift from the Creator, which they have stewarded, hand-harvested, and processed for millennia. Manoomin is also a highly sensitive species. Its range and abundance have been in decline because of multiple stressors including disturbed hydrology, nutrient loads, land use change and climate change. It is nearly gone in Michigan, and an estimated one-third of Manoomin stands have disappeared across Wisconsin and Minnesota. In addition, tribal resource managers are concerned about declines in harvesting. Harvesting among non-tribal, Minnesota permit holders has decreased dramatically from more than 16,000 permit holders in the 1960s to around 1,500 today.

To address these challenges a unique research collaboration, including tribes, inter-tribal organizations, and University of Minnesota (UMN) researchers from four colleges, has formed to protect Manoomin and strengthen relationships between UMN and tribal communities.

The project, given the Ojibwe name Kawe Gidaa-Naanaagadawendaamin Manoomin/Psiη (First we must consider Manoomin) by members of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, is unique in its underlying commitment to prioritize tribal knowledge, perspectives, and needs in research and engagement. Since the project began in 2017 with a grant from the UMN-Twin Cities Grand Challenges Program, the partnership has expanded to include participants from 9 tribes, 5 tribal natural resource agencies, 2 inter-tribal organizations, and 8 native and 12 non-native students. 

Among their work to date, project researchers have:

  • Conducted a survey of non-native wild rice harvesters to inquire about their values, beliefs, and harvesting practices.
  • Implemented a long-term effort to collect biophysical data on Manoomin waters 
  • Interviewed state and Indigenous resource managers about their views on the state-tribal consultation process 
  • In addition, the collaboration brings all partners together twice annually for a conference to build relationships, develop trust, shape the direction of the project, organize field work, discuss research results, and disseminate findings.  

To learn more about this project, see: [email protected]

wild rice
researchers collecting rice
Manoomin/Psiη project researchers collecting data during the 2020 field season