Team Stream – Manoomin 2021

Participants: Christopher Villarruel, Abigail Bartlett, Kellen Cooks

Mentors: June Sayers, Hannah Jo King, Madeline Nyblade, Gene-Hua Crystal Ng, Mike Dockry, Mae Davenport, University of Minnesota

Christopher Villarruel

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Chris’ Project:

Installing Stream Gauges and Groundwater Wells to Monitor Head Gradient in a Manoomin Bearing Lake, by Christopher Villarruel, Humboldt State University, and Dr. Gene-Hua Crystal Ng, June Sayers, and Madeline Nyblade, University of Minnesota, TC

Abstract:  Manoomin or “the good fruit” is both a cultural and economic staple and has sustained the Anishinaabe People of the region. Big Rice Lake was once one of the best producers of Manoomin in the 1854 Treaty Territory, but it has been on the decline since 2006. In partnership with 1854 Treaty Authority, University of Minnesota Twin Cities researchers are using stream gauge wells and piezometers to measure the fluctuating surface water and groundwater flux of the lake. At Big Rice Lake two wells were installed at the inlet and outlet. Water level flux data when combined with local knowledge shared with Manoomin stewards, may deepen the knowledge about stressors that are affecting the habitat.

Abi Bartlett

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Abi’s Project:

Alkalinity of Natural Waters in Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin Relating to Wild Rice Density by Abi Bartlett, University of Minnesota, Morris; Dr. Gene-Hua Crystal Ng, Dr. Cara Santelli, and Sam Perez, University of Minnesota, TC

Abstract:  Manoomin, known as the “good fruit” or “spirit delicacy” in the Ojibwe language and as “wild rice” in English (David et al, 2019), possesses an influential role in the first order of creation and life cycle, the plants, the animals, the humans, and the harvest for the Anishinaabe. When there is a problem with wild rice there is a large ripple effect touching many ecosystems, traditions, families, spirituality, sustenance, and more. The greatest potential impacts to manoomin at our two sites of study, Big Rice Lake and Big Round Lake, include altered seasonal and annual temperatures with climate change as well as competition with other species including pickerelweed and invasive plants (David et al, 2019). Changes in water levels and flow, human recreation habits, excess nutrients like phosphorus, and lack of awareness about the importance of manoomin also may contribute to the decline (David et al, 2019). The data that is present is a portion of the data that can be analyzed from the samples taken at these two sites, via sediment coring with HTH gravity corer and filtering water from the cores into vacuumed serum vials with 9 cm RhizonTM samplers. Alkalinity is most known as being the buffering capacity of a water body in maintaining a stable pH level. Being that this project is over a long period of time, the observations and data that is present is the alkalinity, obtained by using 0.16 normal sulfuric acid with a digital titrator, and pH level. In data from 1998 to the present, the pH was found to be fluctuating from slightly acidic to neutral but had no direct correlation to where manoomin stalks per square meter were lower (Vogt, 2021 ). The lake, in 2021, has become slightly more acidic than in past years and the concentration of alkaline was consistently lower than the threshold that is ideal for manoomin growth (40-200 ppm) in certain depths of the lake at the inlet and outlet (Wild Rice Establishment, 2001 ). Big Round Lake’s high alkalinity and pH, and additional manoomin growth, suggest that lower alkalinity and pH could be a precursor or indicator of decreased manoomin density. Looking forward to alkalinity and pH data collected in the following years, it will be important to investigate this perspective when observing inclines and declines of wild rice density.

Kellen Cooks

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Kellen’s Project:

Converging Worldviews of Food and Land in the Upper Great Lakes: A Theoretical Framework Grounded in Manoomin, by Kellen Cooks, Cornell University, and Hannah Jo King, Mike Dockry, and Mae Davenport, University of Minnesota, TC

Abstract:  Manoomin (“Wild Rice” in the Ojibwe language) is more than a food staple but is an integral element of life itself for Ojibwe tribes and communities. With tactics of physical force and legal manipulation, European settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries colonized Anishinaabe lands into the American and Canadian nation-states through the gradual formation of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, and Manitoba. This forcibly disrupted intergenerational Anishinaabe relationships between each other, the land, and integral food staples such as Manoomin. With this settler encounter in mind, this research project explores the political and cultural narratives around the rights and relationships to harvesting that exist on Upper Great Lakes Manoomin waters. To explore this research question, three qualitative methodologies were used, including: (1) analysis and peer debriefing of 9 interviews of Native and non-Native researchers and resource managers from a 2020-2021 interview dataset evaluating the Kawe Gidaa-naanaagadawendaamin Manoomin collaboration; (2) personal reflections on fieldwork visits to Manoomin-growing lakes, and (3) dialogue with a resource manager involved with the preservation and restoration of Manoomin. From these methodologies, a theoretical framework was developed which maps two worldviews: one rooted in Anishinaabe knowledge systems that perceives food and land as an element of spiritual and ecological life, and another rooted in Western thought that perceives food and land as a commodity for extraction and exploitation. While the spiritual-ecological worldview is explored through the context of Manoomin harvesting, and the commodifying worldview is exemplified in settler colonialist histories and projects in Minnesota and Wisconsin, these worldviews do not exist purely on separate islands. Treaty rights create a bridge between worldviews, supporting tribal food and resource sovereignty in the past, present, and future through historical agreements that have also been manipulated by settlers to colonize and extract from Anishinaabe lands. Land-based experiences is a second bridge, exemplified in my fieldwork visits to Big Round Lake and Big Rice Lake, where Natives and non-Natives can engage with worldviews interacting in real-time, and learn to fly between “the scientific and the Indigenous” (Kimmerer 2013). This approach to thinking about bridges between worldviews of food and land may encourage exploration of how worldviews are bridged in other ways, both systemic and personal, and how the envisioning of such bridges can support approaches to environmental justice on various colonized landscapes in the future.