|Written by Jim Northrup,
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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
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
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
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
**** 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
I had a group of writers so I used
most of the exercises I used when I was a writer in the schools many
It was a fulfilling experience. Mii
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,
, Facebook too.