The harvesting of manoomin (wild rice) in Upper Peninsula lakes.
“Good food culture does not infringe on the rights and responsibilities of others, all others, all beings, past, present and future and demonstrates respect for all while practicing gratitude for one’s own food culture,” says Valoree Gagnon, Director of University-Indigenous Community Partnerships at Michigan Tech University’s Great Lakes Research Center. Within the Upper Peninsula, Native American communities work to maintain an association with their ancestral foods and to support the local producers of food. Gagnon says, “It’s the process of integrating food into identity and practice, rooted in webs of relationships.”
Manoomin, also known as wild rice, is deeply rooted within Anishinaabe culture. The 12 tribes that make up the Michigan Wild Rice Initiative emphasize the importance of manooming in the community. Roger LaBine is a member of the Initiative and is a water Resource Technologist in the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Band of Chippewa. He talks about the traditions he has each year, “I believe that plants are my brother and that all of us have a spirit. If I do not respect the manoomin, I can be taken away from me. Every time I go out and visit the bed, I give the sign of respect and declare my identity and the reason the reason I’m there. When I leave in the autumn, the bed provides me with what I require and I take only what I require.” The labor-intensive procedure of gathering and preparing rice is performed communally in order to make sure that every person gets enough.
In the eastern part of UP in the east part of UP, the Jiibaakwaan Production Ordinance was recently adopted by the Bay Mills Indian Community (BMIC). This ordinance regulates the safety of food items with importance to the culture that has been prepared securely and also promotes economic development. Connie Watson, the Bemidji Area Leaders Acting for Change (BALAC) Project Coordinator for the Bay Mills Indian Community, believes this rule will help increase accessibility to these food items. “The final objective is to reduce heart disease, diabetes and obesity. We hope that by making our local and traditional foods more readily available, it will ease the route to a healthier overall.”
Collectively, Indigenous tribal members of the UP are working towards an eating system that is based on their ancestral foodways. Every bite of locally-grown food is from the land of natives. A well-established community-based food organization not only recognizes other cultures but also is able to learn from them and, most importantly, is there for the different cultures. While Michigan continues to work towards improving its diet, the system impacts every aspect of the local community. Gagnon says, “Food doesn’t exist separately from the many dynamics of one’s culture, the social, political, ecological, and so forth exists together.”
Are you adventurous?
I would like to imagine myself as an adventurer, but I have a fear of high places. However, I’ve been to some of the most bizarre and amazing locations. I packed everything away and relocated to Doha with my family for one year.
Before having kids, We would take a trip on weekends and visit the Drakensberg and Hazyview regions. In addition, I always experiment with weird and delicious dishes.