White Earth Land Recovery Project

Archive for Mahnomen

Testimony Regarding Wild Rice Sulfate Standard


Wild rice or Manoomin is a sacred food of great cultural, nutritional and economic significance to the Anishinaabeg or Ojibwe people of Minnesota and throughout the Great Lakes region. Manoomin is central to our spiritual teachings, and, as well has provided for our people for a millennium.

Wild rice is the only treaty protected grain in North America, and is explicitly mentioned in treaties with the US government, including the l837, l854 treaties, and is essential in subsequent treaty determinations.

Wild rice only grows in this region, and in all studies over the past fifty years, requires a pristine lake and water quality standard to be maintained.   In a long set of studies, it was determined that “sulfate concentrations above this level ( l0 mg/L) are detrimental to the growth of wild rice.” Some 90% of the areas in Minnesota in which wild rice was found had waters with less than l0 ppm and that there were “no large and important natural and self perpetuating wild rice stands in Minnesota where the sulfate ion content exceeded l0 ppm”.  From what we understand, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will establish new rules governing maximum sulfate levels in wild rice waters, but until the new rules are adopted, the bill would change the current 10 milligrams per liter maximum to 250 milligrams. This will not allow for the continuation of our wild rice.

The only reason this forty year standard is being challenged at this point, is to allow for the expansion of mining operations in areas where there are wild rice lakes and beds.   This is, in particular true, with the proposals for the proposed Polymet Mine, near Ely, Minnesota, an area well within the l854 treaty of the Anishinaabe, and thus protected as a treaty right for the Ojibwe people.   In numerous occasions over the past several years, the Ojibwe have voiced opposition to these regulatory changes.

Although mining interests and the Minnesota Chambers of Commerce filed a lawsuit in December of 2010 to block enforcement of the Minnesota water quality standard that prevents high levels of sulfate pollution in waters with wild rice, we support the intervention by WaterLegacy and other advocates and wish to insure that our wild rice is protected. There is no place where wild rice and mining tailings or mining discharge exist in the state of Minnesota, and there has been a significant loss, already of valuable wild rice beds and lakes in our region. 

The change in the standard would be to the detriment of wild rice, the Anishinaabe and all Minnesotans. The change in the standard would be a violation of the treaty guaranteed protection of the wild rice of this region- Anishinaabe Akiing.


Defending Wild Rice

Some state lawmakers, the Minnesota Chambers of Commerce and some major mining companies want to gut the water quality standards which protect wild rice – and in fact insure it can grow. New proposals would open the limit of allowable sulfates form l0 ppm to 240 ppm, insuring destruction of wild rice beds. Conveniently, this will allow for mining in areas where wild rice and water are adjacent to ore bodies. This past Tuesday March 22, at a very early hour of the morning – one brave Ojibwe ricer made his way to the State Capital to testify on behalf of the wild rice and the Ojibwe. Ajuawak Kapashesit, from Round Lake on the White Earth reservation presented testimony to the State Legislative hearing, opposing the change in standards.

Kapashesit, commented on his face book. “Why do they have hearings at 8 l5 in the morning?”, lamenting the early hour. This was especially difficult for a college student to muster. However, he did manage to get to the hearing, and was the only Ojibwe present to testify . Representing the White Earth Land Recovery Project, Kapashesit’s testimony follows.

Ajuawak Kapashesit is a Sophomore at Macalester College in St. Paul, studying linguistics. He has riced at Indian Creek, the Ottertail River, and the Crow Wings , and weighed hundreds of pounds of wild rice for Native Harvest.

Read Ajuawak’s Testimony

Mahnomen versus Mining

“Acid mine drainage from sulfide mines impairs naturally-occurring wild rice (manoomin).   Natural stands of wild rice have enormous ecological value in preserving water quality, reducing algae blooms, providing habitat for fish and for wildfowl…”

Press Release fromWaterLegacy(.org):

Chamber of Commerce Wild Rice Lawsuit — NEWS — WaterLegacy Moves to Intervene, Dismiss Lawsuit   (in PDF form)
Press release, January 6, 2011.   The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit on December 17, 2010 on behalf of mining interests challenging the water quality rule that limits sulfate in waters containing wild rice.  Today, we served legal papers, including a motion for WaterLegacy to intervene in the lawsuit and a motion to dismiss the entire case for failure to state a claim under applicable law.The Chamber’s lawsuit attempts to fundamentally disrupt the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s enforcement of water quality standards protecting natural wild rice and the ecosystem for which wild rice is critical.  From a legal perspective, we believe that the lawsuit is entirely without merit.”

“…Mining and other industrial projects should be designed to meet water quality standards.  Standards should not be weakened or manipulated to accommodate projects instead of preventing pollution.”

For more info goto: http://waterlegacy.org/wild_rice

Wild Rice Campaign

Wild Rice: Protecting Our Sacred Manoomin

Keep it Wild - by Rabbett Strickland (thumbnail)

Wild Rice is a central part of Anishinaabeg culture and tradition. Today, Ojibwe communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Canada harvest and process wild rice, following the traditions of their ancestors. Manoomin, or wild rice is part of the Anishinaabeg migration stories and prophecies and continues to define what it means to be Anishinaabeg. Our campaign to protect wild rice started to combat the misuse and misrepresentation of this sacred food by the paddy rice industry created by the University of Minnesota. Our work focuses on combating the genetic manipulation, patenting and the misrepresentation of wild rice locally, nationally and internationally. The focus of our campaign is to work with all tribes who harvest wild rice, to protect against genetic manipulation, patenting and taking the essence of our wild rice and leaving our people with nothing.

Local Anishinaabeg harvesters gathering wild rice using the traditional method.

Our work began in 2002 with the historic gathering that brought together traditional rice harvesters from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to meet with members from the academic, scientific and non-profit communities. This meeting set the foundation for our ongoing struggle to protect the sacred wild rice from issues of bio-piracy, further genetic manipulation, patent struggles and labeling issues.

Over the last year, we have worked on four main componets of our wild rice campaign. Protecting the intellectual property rights of the Anishinaabeg, opposing genetic modification and contamination of wild rice, promoting a fair trade for traditionally hand harvested natural lake wild rice, and educating on the tradition and culture surrounding wild rice. We have made much progress and have laid the groundwork for our upcoming work to protect wild rice through the Minnesota State Legislature.

Click the images to purchase these fine products at our Native Harvest store:

Rabbett Strickland poster…

   Save Wild Rice Poster,


…and of course our Wild Rice products: