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Women and ricing

1 August 2010

By:  Misty Peterson, FdL Intern

Harvesting wild rice (ricing) has been a part of the Ojibwa culture around Lake Superior for centuries. Harvesting the wild rice was a community event that everyone from kids to grandparents could take part in. Historically the role of women in harvesting the wild rice was knocking while the husband would pole. Knocking the wild rice was a task that was a bit tougher for the women, but that did not cause any separation in the division of labor or work with harvesting. Since ricing was usually a days worth of work, they would often bring lunches out on the lakes with them. They would fry potatoes over the fire and make tea and sandwiches, truly making this a fine family tradition. People would start the ricing process as early as 9 am and would not be off the lake until 4 or 5 pm. One would normally rice where they could see the darkheads, or in other words, where the rice was most abundant and ripe. The ricers would often leave a lot of the rice for the birds to eat as an offering. Alvie Tiessen recalls: “My grandmother would put tobacco down for a good season, but she would thank great manitoo anyways for letting them rice.” So was ricing more honored back in those days then it is today? “Yes” she agreed. Even though times have changed and the money is a factor that is appealing to some ricers today, it remains a good tradition in our culture and great past time to those who remember it that way.

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