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Wild rice holds a very important place in Ojibwe culture.
When the Ojibwe migrated west as part of a prophecy, or prediction they had been told, the people traveled in search of “the land where food grows on water.” When they arrived at the Great Lakes, they found wild rice growing on the water. It marked the end of their journey. Because of this, wild rice is viewed as a sacred plant in Ojibwe culture.
Wild rice was a staple, or food regularly eaten as part, of the Ojibwe diet. Wild rice grew in the lakes, streams and river beds throughout the Great Lakes region along what is now the U.S.- Canadian border and up through much of Canada.
Gathering wild rice was a job traditionally done and overseen by Ojibwe women. To harvest wild rice, the Ojibwe would paddle their canoes out among the stalks of wild rice growing in the water. The women would grab ahold of one of the stalks, bend it over the boat and hit the plant firmly with a large stick. The grains of rice would fall off of the stalk and into the boat to be collected. Then, it was on to the next wild rice plant to start the process all over again, knocking more rice off of the stalks. Collecting rice was very hard work.
Once the women would gather up all of the rice, and when they got back to the shore, it would be dried and prepared to cook and store.