The Story of Manoomin (Wild Rice)

30 Sep

What is Manoomin?

     The Anishinabek were given Seven Prophecies, the first of which instructed the Anishinabek to leave their home on the Northeast Coast of North America and follow the direction of the setting sun. The First Prophecy says that the Anishinabek would find their new home “where food grows on the water.” When our ancestors came to the Great Lakes region they found manoomin (wild rice) growing on inland lakes. Manoomin was the food that grows on water and has ever since been very sacred to our people. It became one of our most important food sources because it could be stored for a very long time and it had a very high nutritional value.

The story of Nanaboozhoo and how he was introduced to manoomin-  

…One evening Nanaboozhoo returned from hunting, but he had no game…As he came towards his fire, there was a duck sitting on the edge of his kettle of boiling water. After the duck flew away, Nanaboozhoo looked into the kettle and found wild rice floating upon the water, but he did not know what it was. He ate his supper from the kettle, and it was the best soup he had ever tasted. Later, he followed in the direction the duck had taken, and came to a lake full of manoomin: wild rice. He saw all kinds of ducks and geese and mud hens, and all the other water birds eating the grain. After that, when Nanaboozhoo did not kill a deer, he knew where to find food to eat….

   Manoomin is the word used for wild rice in Anishinabemowin, or the Ojibwe language. The -min part of the word means seed or berry. The first part of the word is a contraction of Manido, spirit-giver of this traditionally important and sacred food grain. Manoomin gave its name to the moon (month) of harvest, typically the end of September early October.

    Several American Indian cultures consider wild rice to be a sacred component in their culture. The rice is harvested with a canoe: one person knocks rice into the canoe with a two small poles (called “knockers” or flails) while the other paddles slowly or uses a push pole. This harvest is an important cultural event- a celebration and thanks for the fruits of the harvest very similar to the American Thanksgiving.

 Did you know?

 Manoomin has more overall nutrition than any other food once available to the native diet.

 Gluten free and low in fat, manoomin is also a good source of minerals.

 Traditional methods used by the Ojibwe people to harvest manoomin are still used today.

 The feast of wild rice is similar to Thanksgiving.




 LaDuke, Winona. “The Wild Rice Moon.”
    Whole Winter 1999. 30, 2009).


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