of the best crops in years is keeping band members busy
Isham fed more wood to the fire crackling beneath a long, flat pan
as Francis Littlewolf and Martina Isham used canoe paddles to stir
the rice filling the eight-foot pan. Country music sang out of a
boom box placed on a metal folding chair.
almost ready, declared Marybelle, waving away the smoke rising
from the fire as she inspected the rice.
hand-parching operation, which began last week, is a new twist to
this years ricing season at Nett Lake, according to Bois Forte
Reservation biologist Chris Holm. In the past, the Band has contracted
with others to hand parch a portion of the wild rice it purchases.
This year, it decided to create a few additional jobs by setting
up its own hand-parching operation. About 5,000 pounds will be hand-parched.
timing couldnt be better. Jobs, even temporary ones, are hard
to come by in todays economy. Ricing itself can help supplement
a familys income and provides food for families. Wild rice
also plays an important part in the tribes ceremonies and
history. According to Ojibwe legend, a great vision guided the tribes
ancestors westward to Nett Lake in search of the food that
grows upon the water.
also helps that this years wild rice harvest has been one
of the best in more than a decade.
a very good, said Holm about this seasons crop. The
last one comparable to this years would be in 1996 or 1997.
stretch of unseasonably warm weather that began in August and has
extended through half of September is primarily responsible for
the strong crop, said Holm. But another factor is an annual weeding
operation that clears areas of the lake for wild rice production.
The result is a heavy density of mature rice in beds scattered across
a sharp contrast to last season when tribal officials chose to suspend
the rice harvest on Nett Lake. Cool weather throughout the summer
of 2008 slowed growth and maturation of the rice beds. To avoid
incurring more damage to the crop, the Band canceled the annual
year is a different story. Holm said tribal officials planned to
purchase 10,000 pounds of rice this year, but met that quota within
two hours. They ultimately ended up buying about 18,000 pounds of
rice from Band members.
had people coming in with an average of 200 to 250 pounds of rice
to sell, said Holm, with some picking as much as 400 pounds
or more in a full day on the lake. People are very, very happy
with the rice crop this year. Their smiles go from ear to ear.
agreed that it is probably the best rice crop that she has seen
is more labor intensive and requires a watchful eye to ensure that
the rice isnt burned over the fire. Each pan-load can be different,
depending on how much moisture is in the rice.
a rule of thumb, hand-parched rice has a bit more moisture than
machine-processed wild rice. That additional moisture allows hand-parched
rice to cook more quickly. It also has a unique flavor due to the
smoke that rises from the fire and infiltrates the rice.
said the hand-parched wild rice sells for $17 to $17.95 per pound,
depending on the quantity bought, while regular parched rice fetches
from $11 to $11.95.
is available at Bois Forte businesses such as radio station WELY,
the Y Store and Fortune Bay Resort Casino and online at www.boisforte.com.
Mount Royal Foods of Duluth also distributes the rice and some area
businesses have expressed interest in carrying the product.