Fond du Lac Follies

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Fond du Lac Follies motored to Perch

Lake to harvest manoomin. My wife Patricia and I were going to

manoominike together as we had been doing for the last several

decades.

What a grand sight greeted us. Perch

Lake was full of manoomin. I did not see any open water anywhere, the

green was everywhere. I also didn’t see any lily pads or moose

ears. Those two plants compete with the manoomin for the lake

nutrients. Thanks to Charlie Nahganub and the other manoomin tenders.

The amount of rice on the lake was the most I have seen in many

years.

We offered tobacco in gratitude.

According to the Rez DNR this was a

poor crop. I have problems with that. To my way of thinking it is a

gift and not a crop. Farmers sow and then reap a crop. The manoomin

is a gift from the Creator. How did the DNR determine this was a

‘poor crop’? Were they looking at it from the space station?

The manoomin was growing too thick for

my wife to pole through, we had a back-up plan, my son Jim, the

champion manoomin pole racer at our language camp was nearby. He

stepped into the canoe and had us moving along nicely through the

thick manoomin. I leaned the manoomin with one knocker while I

stroked the rice heads with the other. I smelled the lake.

The sun was shining brightly, the sky

was blue and the critters were plentiful.

The green plants were abundant. The

manoomin grains looked heavy and full – they were. I kept knocking

the manoomin. Jim pointed out a bald eagle. It is my belief that the

eagle will carry the message to the Creator we are still using his

gift. We saw some trumpeter swans and of course the little rice hens.

The geese went honking by like they were in a traffic jam. There was

a small breeze from the south that caused the manoomin to lean over

my canoe at just the right angle for easy knocking. At first the

manoomin rattled against the metal hull of the canoe, in a very short

time it quit making that noise because the bottom of the canoe was

filling up. I heard other people making manoominke noises.

Manoominike is an annual gift, some

years it is difficult to get enough, other years it is easy.

This year was one of the easy years. It

really doesn’t matter how much manoomin we get, as said earlier, it

is a gift. I feel lucky to take part in this unique experience. It is

all so familiar to me.

I saw people helping people getting

their canoes into the water, loaning someone a sack to hold their

manoomin. I heard many stories and much laughter on the lake shore.

We know that 100 pounds of finished manoomin will last us a year

until the next time we harvest.

The second day Patricia went to

harvest manoomin with son Jim. She knocks rice better than I do so

she said I should stay home and do my writing. So in two days we have

enough manoomin to use as gifts, weddings, funerals, and to eat

anytime we want.

**** At Perch Lake my son Jim is giving

a different kind of a gift, he is sharing what he knows about

finishing manoomin. He has constructed a waaginogaan, has a fire pit,

and a dancing pit. People come and learn how manoomin is finished at

home.

I think my son is doing a good thing

by teaching what he learned here at home. He is reaching a larger

audience because his job is to be the cultural advisor on the

Reservation.

**** What an honor to be asked to be a

mentor at the Oak Lake Tribal Writers Retreat in Brookings, South

Dakota. I join the ranks of some noted Native American writers such

as N. Scott Momaday, Kim Blaeser, LeAnne Howe, Susan Power, Joseph

Marshall, III, Jodi Boyd, Ted Kooser, Eliabeth Cook-Lynn, James

Welch, Laura Tohe, Bobbie Hill and Gordon Henry.

Patricia and I set up camp in a Days

Inn motel. It wasn’t a seedy motel but it did have a lot of miles

on it. Our room was about a half mile from the front desk.

Dr. Chuck Woodward was our local

guide. He arranged everything and was easy to get to know. We shared

a war, he was a Marine Lieutenant in the 3rd Marines in Vietnam. I

didn’t know whether to call him Doctor or Lieutenant so I called

him Chuckles.

I had a group of writers so I used

most of the exercises I used when I was a writer in the schools many

moons ago.

It was a fulfilling experience. Mii

iw.

The views expressed in this column

belong to the writer alone. They are not meant to represent this

newspaper, the Rez, the DNR and a few more initials. Comments and

bingo packs can be sent to FdL Follies, PO Box 16, Sawyer, MN,

55780-0016. Email: jimnorthrupfdl@gmail.com , Facebook too.