Canku Ota Logo
Canku Ota
Canku Ota Logo
(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
pictograph divider
Ricing Time at Nett Lake
by Tom Klein - Timberjay (MN) Newspapers
credits: photo by Tom Klein - Timberjay Newspapers
One of the best crops in years is keeping band members busy

Marybelle 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.

“It’s almost ready,” declared Marybelle, waving away the smoke rising from the fire as she inspected the rice.

The hand-parching operation, which began last week, is a new twist to this year’s 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.

The timing couldn’t be better. Jobs, even temporary ones, are hard to come by in today’s economy. Ricing itself can help supplement a family’s income and provides food for families. Wild rice also plays an important part in the tribe’s ceremonies and history. According to Ojibwe legend, a great vision guided the tribe’s ancestors westward to Nett Lake in search of “the food that grows upon the water.”

It also helps that this year’s wild rice harvest has been one of the best in more than a decade.

“It’s a very good,” said Holm about this season’s crop. “The last one comparable to this year’s would be in 1996 or 1997.”

A 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 the lake.

It’s 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 harvest.

This 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.

“We 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.”

Marybelle agreed that it is probably the best rice crop that she has seen in years.

Hand-parching is more labor intensive and requires a watchful eye to ensure that the rice isn’t burned over the fire. Each pan-load can be different, depending on how much moisture is in the rice.

As 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.

Holm 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.

Rice is available at Bois Forte businesses such as radio station WELY, the Y Store and Fortune Bay Resort Casino and online at Mount Royal Foods of Duluth also distributes the rice and some area businesses have expressed interest in carrying the product.

pictograph divider
Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us
Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us
pictograph divider
  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  
Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 of Vicki Barry and Paul Barry.
Canku Ota Logo   Canku Ota Logo
The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 of Paul C. Barry.
All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter
Thank You

Valid HTML 4.01!