Manoomin (Wild Rice): The Food that Grows on Water (part 1 of 3)
This is a joyous time of year for us on the White Earth Indian Reservation! It’s time to harvest our Manoomin (otherwise known as wild rice)!
This is the first post of a 3 part series to share with you the legend behind our most sacred food!
Manoomin (Wild Rice), the food that grows on water, is a sacred food. Manoomin has been a part of our legends and teachings since the earliest times. It is a sacred food that is part of our migration story and the Seven Fires Prophecy.
The Seven Fires Prophecy tells of the westward migration to our current homelands from the east Coast. During each of the Seven Fires, a prophet came to the people. The first prophet told people of the first fire at the beginning of their journey. According to The Mishomis Book : The voice of the Ojibway by Edward Benton-Banai,
The first prophet said to the people:
"In the time of the First Fire, the Anishinaabe nation will rise up and follow the sacred shell of the Midewiwin Lodge. The Midewiwin Lodge will serve as a rallying point for the people and its traditional ways will be the source of much strength. The Sacred Megis will lead the way to the chosen ground of the Anishinaabe.”
The prophet told the people they would find a turtle shaped island at the beginning and the end of their journey. He warned that if they didn’t move from the east coast, they would perish. The prophet said the people would know they had reached their chosen ground when they found the “food that grows on water”, otherwise known as Manoomin (Wild Rice).
The second prophet told the people,
"You will know the Second Fire because at this time the nation will be camped by a large body of water. In this time the direction of the Sacred Shell will be lost. The Midewiwin will diminish in strength. A boy will be born to point the way back to the traditional ways. He will show the direction to the stepping stones to the future of the Anishinaabe people."
The third prophet said to the people,
"In the Third Fire the Anishinaabe will find the path to their chosen ground, a land in the west to which they must move their families. This will be the land where food grows on water."
When the Anishinaabe found the Manoomin in the lakes and rivers where they now reside, they knew they had reached the place foretold in the prophecies “where the food grows on water”.
Manoomin is not only a culturally significant food, it is a highly nutritious food. Manoomin (Wild Rice) contains more than 12 percent protein and has more protein than white rice and most other grains. It's gluten free and low in fat. Our wild rice is also a good source of minerals and contains iron, potassium and phosphorus, as well as vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
To us “modern” people land is just real estate to be bought, “developed”, and sold- an investment for profit. It’s good to see the cultural and spiritual meanings to life, not the material and pragmatic.
I guess this legend assumes that your people migrate. Unfortunately the US government has stolen much of your traditional lands and forced you to live permanently on a reservation, so that the legend doesn’t mean as much as it should.