McCradie of rural Grandin, N.D., came to Lower Rice Lake in Clearwater
County this year for vacation, which was just for ricing.
never seen anything like Monday in my whole life," she said. "Everyone
was coming in with boatloads (of wild rice). I'm sure glad I was
sons, Donald and Michael Roy of Naytahwaush, were both ricing Lower
Rice Lake Monday and Tuesday.
Monday, the two ended up taking 1,028 pounds of wild rice in three
boatloads, Donald Roy said. McCradie said Michael told her he never
thought he'd get that much rice.
was a workout," Donald said.
brothers were back at it Tuesday morning with more than 35 other
tribal members. They expected to bring in another three boats full
of green wild rice.
being a rigorous task, McCradie's job was to guard the rice her
sons brought into the pickup.
I tried to rice with my boys now, they'd throw rocks at me," she
stopped ricing about 30 years ago, when she would collect wild rice
with her sister. Fifty to 60 pounds of rice back then was a good
somebody came in with a full boat, you were so proud of them," she
said. "But when you come in and dump your boat and go back out
for her decision to come to White Earth for this year's ricing season,
she said it was a very good choice.
come out and see the rice and visit with everyone, it's the best
vacation I've had in forever," she said.
to the rice
history dates back many, many years.
our tribe was on the East Coast," Mike Swan explained. "Because
we were told to go to a place where food grows on water, that's
where wild rice is. So, we migrated here."
who serves as the director of natural resources for the White Earth
Reservation, said the Ojibwa Indians settled here because of that
wild rice and have been harvesting it since.
year is a good year, but it's late like any agricultural crop. It's
late because of the cool summer we've had," he said.
typical rice season runs from mid-August to the end of September,
but this year, the ricing didn't start until after Sept. 4.
hot sun and weather the last week has really ripened up the crop
quite a bit," Swan said.
season started on Tamarac Wildlife National Refuge, with multiple
lakes that offer the perfect conditions for wild rice. Ricing is
only good in water about four feet deep, the water needs to be clear,
and there can't be boat traffic on the lake for the rice to grow.
the refuge became established in 1938, a portion of it was on the
White Earth Reservation.
agreement was made that tribal members would have priority privileges,
Lowell Deede said, on the reservation portion of the refuge. Deede
serves as the wildlife biologist on the Refuge.
said the tribal biologist does an assessment each year to determine
how many boats can be put on each water body.
then have a lottery in White Earth. For lakes that have more than
five boats for example Rice Lake had 35 boats out there
members that are drawn for ricing then select a lake chairman."
chairman then determines when the bed is ready for harvest. Deede
said that's important because some ricers may try to get out early
and end up ruining the crop.
boaters can also damage the rice.
the fishermen like it because it attracts bass or something like
that. At that time though, the rice is still growing," Swan said.
"There needs to be more education out there. Most people just see
it as weeds that gives good cover for bass."
year has been a good year, though. As of Tuesday, the White Earth
Reservation had already met its quota of rice purchased 80,000
sell it to the employees and the elders. Some of the rice is donated
to our powwows, some of the schools (receive some for students),
different programs get some, and we get a lot of written donation
requests for door prizes for fund-raisers."
is an order form on the whiteearth.com Web site where people can
order wild rice.
tribe doesn't sell to other businesses, though, although ricers
can sell it if they choose.
there are others, like the White Earth Land Recovery Project, that
buy rice, too, but it's been pretty quiet out there this year."
Swan said, ricers use the profits from the month-and-a-half-long
ricing season to supplement their income for a car, clothes, etc.
had one guy tell me it's going to pay for their heating bill for
the winter," Swan said.
year, the tribe paid $1.50 per pound for green rice, which is before
it is processed.
Processing is key
said there are about six people who process the rice once it comes
in off the lake.
water is taken out of the rice, then the hulls are thrashed off
the rice, then all the dust and sticks are taken out and finally,
the seed remains.
all you have left is the finished product."
said the process used to be done by hand, by himself included as
he was growing up, but there is equipment used now.
wasn't easy work, I can tell you that," he said with a laugh.
a knack of knowing what you're doing, too. If you process your rice
correctly, you should be able to save your rice up to 20 years and
it should be just like it's fresh," Swan said.
the rice isn't processed correctly, it will be mush. Properly processed
rice should cook up in 20 minutes.
all about experience. In four hours, he said, an experienced ricer
will harvest about 400-500 pounds of rice. An inexperienced one
will get 150-200 pounds.
a matter of knowing what you're doing out there on the lake, what
to look for and you've got to work together with your partner."
the ricing process, there are two people, one paddling and one sitting
in the canoe to tap the rice into the canoe.
ago, before Deede came to the refuge, the refuge would take 10 percent
of the ricers harvest for reseeding the lakes. He said he doesn't
know why that was done or why it stopped, it's just a piece of history
was very labor intensive. Maybe it was thought that the beds, long-term,
were able to sustain the ricing pressure without really deteriorating
in size or density. This is just speculation on my part, but I think
it sounds logical," he said.
said he knows there are non-tribal members that rice off the refuge,
but in his 25 years, he can't remember a non-tribal member ricing
on the refuge.
are given a permit for the lake they will harvest on, and they are
not permitted to "lake jump."
have got law enforcement (officers who) check and see they are ricing
on the lake they were drawn for," Deede said. "For the most part,
there's not any problem with that."
non-refuge lakes are open for ricing, the refuge lakes are open
to those who did not get drawn in the lottery system.
said the amount of ricers depends on the growing season. There are
about two bumper crops every decade, a couple busts and the remaining
years are average, he said.
pondering the question, Swan said there has been a decline in ricing
over the years because there are not the young ricers anymore. The
average age of harvesters is 45-50, he said.
is a wild rice camp, though, that has been teaching young people
to rice and he hopes to get them out on the lakes to keep the tradition
lot of times people learn from their parents, and a lot of times
they're not around nowadays to take the time to teach them how to
after the people are done harvesting the rice, the remainder becomes
food for the waterfowl.