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Living in Harmony with Wetlands

Photo of wild rice

People, Wetlands, and Wild Rice

In the lands surrounding the western Great Lakes, wild rice is important to the ecology of shallow water wetlands. Many species of wildlife, particularly waterfowl preparing for fall migration, fed upon the nutritious seeds. Wild rice also provides people with a food that is high in protein and fiber.

American Indian tribes in the western Great Lakes region developed a method of harvesting wild rice that has been in practice for thousands of years. The traditional hand-harvest of naturally grown wild rice makes use of the resource without depleting the rice or disturbing the wetland. In shallow northern lakes and rivers sloughs, harvesting continues much as in the past, with two people working together in a canoe. One person stands at the stern and poles through the rice field while the other sits in the canoe and gently knocks the rice stalks into the bottom of the canoe. In the process, some of the grain falls into the water or remains on the stalks to replenish the crop and nourish wetland wildlife.

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