Wild Rice Management and Restoration
Wild rice (manoomin) is the “food that grows on water”, whose presence fulfilled the prophecies foretold in the Anishinaabe’s migration from the east. It is used in our daily lives, ceremonies, and feasts (Our Manoomin, Our Life). It is also recognized as a preferred source of food for migrating waterfowl and has high ecological value for both wildlife and fish habitat. It can also help to maintain water quality by securing loose soil, tying up nutrients, and slowing winds across shallow wetlands. The amount of wild rice in the western U.P. has declined from historic levels due mainly to water fluctuations from hydro dams and degradation of water quality from logging and shoreline development over the past century. In 1991, there wasn’t any wild rice present in our area, although historically it was thought to have been here and on lakes in areas named “Rice Lake”. In 2003, The Keweenaw Bay Tribal Council affirmed the community’s interest in a wild rice program on the L’Anse Indian Reservation (KBIC Integrated Resource Management Plan).
Our original focus was on three wetland systems: Sand Point Sloughs, Pinery Lakes, and Mud Lakes. In 1999, we expanded to include Robillard Impoundment. In the last 10+ years KBIC has planted thousands of pounds of wild rice seed at 13 sites within Baraga County. Wetlands that have had wild rice present in the last 5 years are surveyed annually. Seeding each year is dependent on seed available, and varies from year to year. Human and natural disturbance and consumption of wild rice by wildlife, mainly waterfowl, has impacted establishment and abundance of wild rice in seeded areas. Huron Bay has a possible 35 acres of wetlands with favorable conditions for wild rice, the largest site bordering the reservation. In 2011 there weren’t as many plants but we had unusual seiche activity which may have uprooted many of the plants. This continues to be a promising area which we planted in Fall 2012. Our long term goal is to develop harvestable self-sustaining wild rice populations on the reservation and within the ceded territory for future generations.