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The Northwoods is home to a number of Ojibwe and Potawatomi tribes, but stories from the area’s indigenous people – the Anishinaabe – often go unheard. Native Voices is an effort to share those stories, told by the people who live them.Each episode uses sound to paint a portrait of different indigenous people, casting light on local tribes’ history, culture and customs.

From Seed to Soup: What it's Like to Harvest Wild Rice

Wild Rice Dish
Erin Gottsacker/WXPR
Joe Graveen, a wild rice technician, prepares a wild rice dish.

Tribal members get out their canoes and sand cedar rice knockers at the end of the summer in Lac du Flambeau.

They’re getting ready to harvest wild rice, or manoomin in the Ojibwe language.

The food is an integral part of Ojibwe culture.

“It was told in our prophecies we were supposed to go where food grew on water,” Joe Graveen, a wild rice technicican for the Lac du Flambeau tribe, says. “This is why we’re here in the Great Lakes region. It’s how we ended up in Lac du Flambeau.”

Joe Graveen
Erin Gottsacker
Wild Rice Technician Joe Graveen stands on the shore of Flambeau Lake, which was once covered in wild rice.

Graveen says wild rice is still eaten at every tribal feast and gathering.

But he’s worried because wild rice is getting harder and harder to find in Northern Wisconsin.

“Last year my ricing partner and I harvested around 60 pounds of wild rice,” he says. “The year before that we had a little under 80 pounds and the year before that we probably had about 120 pounds of finished rice.”

Graveen is concerned this trend will continue.

He’s doing everything he can to stop that from happening.

But in the meantime, he and many others from the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe tribe are traveling to Minnesota to harvest wild rice there instead.

From the shore of Flambeau Lake (a lake once covered by wild rice), Graveen shares what it’s like to harvest wild rice, and what the food means to him.

Erin Gottsacker joined WXPR in December 2020. As a Morning Edition host and reporter, Erin reports on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.