S: George & Jack
BC: september 2011
FC: George and Jack take a walk on the wild rice side
1: Wild rice was known by the name â€œmanominâ€ to the Ojibwa but the most commonly accepted name became wild rice. By whatever name, the Indigenous Peoples of North America consider the "wild" varieties of lake and river wild rice to be a gift from the Creator and therefore spiritually sacred. For several weeks each autumn Ojibwa families stayed in the ricing fields. In spite of the hard work-gathering the rice in the morning, and parching, tramping, and winnowing it in the afternoon the people were happy because there were always plenty of friends and relatives on the lake shore, with dancing and drumming at night, a chance to visit with families and friends.
2: Traditionally, the man propelled the canoe with a sapling over 10 feet long, using it to grip the roots of the rice. With a twist of the pole he forced his boat through the tall stalks. The woman, using a cedar stick about three feet long, pulled bunches of rice over the gunwales and, with a shorter stick, knocked the ripened grain into the bottom of the canoe. Back at the camp, when the rice was dry enough, the women put it in a big iron kettle or galvanized iron washtub and parched it over an open fire. To keep it from scorching, they stirred it constantly with a wooden paddle. The man, wearing special moccasins with high cuffs to prevent the rice from getting inside stepped into a hole in the ground that had been lined with skin or into a wooden tub sunk in the ground. Leaning on a diagonal post for support, he tramped on the rice, moving first on one foot and then the other. This process further loosed the husks from the rice, preparing it for the last step. The final chore was to separate the rice grains from their chaff, and this was done by the women on a breezy afternoon. Placing a quantity of rice into large birchbark winnowing trays, they flipped the rice kernels into the air. The chaff blew away and the heavy grains sank to the bottom of the tray.
3: parching | tramping / dancing | winnowing
4: In 1948 Jack met George Tibbetts. George would be a good friend and mentor for many years. It was through their friendship Jacks natural inclination towards hunting and fishing would flourish. George was a member of the Ojibwa tribe and lived on a reservation up near Ball Cub Minnesota where they spent many hours hunting and fishing and learning about Mother Nature. It was here that George introduced Jack to harvesting a Minnesota gem, wild rice. | George Tibbets
5: We invite you to enjoy the next few pages as we show you the process still used by Jack and his family as it has been done for many years by the Ojibwa. In the middle to end of August ricing season is open. It is at this time of the year that a traveler to northern Minnesota might see 4 foot high weeds growing in the lakes and streams. But for George and Jack they would see gold! | â€œReal wild riceâ€ as Jack calls it only grows in a small area in Minnesota lakes and streams. This is because the seed must be kept in constant motion in the water for germination to occur so it is difficult to transplant, and its not like picking vegetables because once you get the rice in your canoe you have only just begun!
6: It starts by getting out the canoe and heading out into the rice fields using long poles to push the canoe through the tall, thick rice stalks. With his pole George forced the canoe through the tall stalks. Then Jack, using a cedar stick about three feet long, pulled bunches of rice over the canoe and, with a shorter stick, knocked the ripened grain into the bottom of the canoe then released the stalk so it could continue producing rice so that there would be more for the second and third harvests! This sounds kind of relaxing and enjoyable, but I can tell you it is not, it is backbreaking.
8: You need to be covered from head to toe to keep the bugs and barbs from the wild rice kernels off your skin. Some people even duct tape their sleeves and turtlenecks to their skin in an attempt to keep the barbs out! In a few hours you can pull in two hundred pounds of unfinished rice, and the fun is just beginning!
9: Carefully hand-harvested, true wild rice is lighter in color, has a softer kernel and cooks more quickly than its paddy-grown counterpart
10: here is how we do it (sort of...) after harvesting, the rice is spread out on tarps to dry in the sun. Dee is in charge of the important job of cleaning extraneous material-twigs, pieces of stalks, small stones, and bugs. When it is clean and dry enough the parching begins.
11: parching the rice starts with Jack putting a small amount of green rice over the firepit
12: then we stir it with canoe paddles, carefully, watching as it parches, for changes in color, size, smell...
13: while the smoke chases us and finds us no matter which way we turn
14: after parching the rice comes off of the fire and on to the screen for cooling | one final inspection is necessary before the rice is thrashed
15: in his concession to technology, once it is toasty from the fire Jack runs it through the thrasher separating hulls and rice kernels...then he tests it in his own special way | traditionally after parching the rice was 'tramped' or 'danced' to thrash it and separate the hull from the kernel
16: Traditionally, final winnowing took place on windy days because once the husks were really loose from tramping, they placed these grains into a big shallow birch bark basket that had slightly curved sides so that they could toss and turn the rice while tossing it up into the air. The wind would blow the chaff away as you tossed the rice and left the clean rice in the basket. | Jack uses an old fashioned fanner after thrashing
17: It takes two to three pounds of green (unprocessed) wild rice to yield one pound of finished (processed) wild rice | after fanning the thrashed wild rice, Jack repeats the process by putting two batches of almost finished rice together, through the thrasher and fanner both, one last time and this gives him the finished product
18: Wild rice was a staple food of many American Indians. It is also a food for wild birds and waterfowl, especially mallard, bobolink, blackbirds, and Carolina rail. Approximately 3/5 ths of the seed falls back into the water to become seed for future crops and food for wildlife.
19: we have a most amazing family tradition thanks to George and Jack and Minnesota's amazing wild rice