Who were the Wild Rice People and How did Native Americans harvest wild rice?

Many Great Lakes Native American tribes ate the delicious rice that grew wild in their marshlands. But this food was most important to the Menominee, whose very name meant “wild rice people.”

Every year, late in the summer, the Menominee took a fleet of canoes through marshes where rice stalks grew up high above the water. While some paddled, others would grab the stalks, pull them over the boats, and beat them with wooden sticks until husks full of ripe rice seeds fell into the canoes. Back home, they separated the seeds from the husks and dried them in the sun.

Once the work was done, the Menominee could count on feasting all winter long on steaming bowls of boiled rice. Instead of salt, they added maple syrup to flavor their meal.

Wild rice was an important food for many Great Lakes tribes. An old engraving depicted Ojibwa Indian women harvesting wild rice in a canoe, the best way to get around the marshlands where this rice grew in abundance.

Some Algonquian called strawberries “heartberries” because of their color and shape.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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