In its 11th installment, Wisconsin Media Lab introduces Fred Ackley Jr., of the Sokaogon Chippewa Community of Mole Lake, as he harvests and processes manoomin, or wild rice.
Ackley lives on the Mole Lake Reservation in Wisconsin and is what is called a “ricer.” He’s 65 and says he’s been working with the rice for 55 years. Gathering the rice is a two-man job—one person working the pole, the other tapping for the rice.
“In my mind, every time I hit a new plant, megwich—thank you,” Ackley says in the video. “Then the rice comes in for me because I am honoring and praying to that rice—giving it that respect that’s going to keep me and my partner going—no matter if I’m poling or the guy tapping the rhythm.”
Once the rice is collected it’s roasted and parched—dehydrated so it can be stored for up to five years, so long as it doesn’t get wet.
“The older people told me that the Creator gave us this manoomin to help us survive… It’s the Creator’s food and Mother Earth, she gives it to us to use. That’s why they call it food that grows on water,” Ackley says in the video.
Ackley also says he is trying to keep this tradition going for all Anishinaabe people, “because we believe if we stop that tradition, the world is going to stop. That’s why it’s important for Indian people to keep on with our traditions and our spiritual thinking because if we stop, what if the world does stop?”
To read more about Ackley, visit TheWays.org.