Thursday, September 3, 2009

People of the Wild Rice

To your right is part of a drawing that was digitized for the Wisconsin State Historical Society's
"Turning Points in Wisconsin History" collection. It had appeared in the American Anthropologist many years before that.

Unlike some topics covered in this blog, there is no shortage of media coverage on wild rice (and in most cases, one of the first things mentioned is that it is not technically rice). Wild rice is such a healthy food that it is recommended by people like Dr. Andrew Weil. Although the Indians that lived in the Great Lakes region before white contact didn't have nutritionists, or dieticians, they knew the value of their special food.

As a matter of fact, they fought wars over it.

In the August, 1974 National Geographic article about the Menominees, a caption on page 239 explains that the Indian word for wild rice is "manomen," and the Menominees got their name from it. And so I came to think of the Menominees as the people of the wild rice.

However, a couple years ago when I was driving through the Bad River Chippewa reservation on my way to Ashland (WI), I saw a hand-painted sign that said "Manomen." I turned my vehicle around and went back to the house that had that sign along the side of the highway. The man selling the authentic wild rice was taking a nap, so I wound up talking to his college-age nephews for a little while. When I said something about how the Menominees were the "people of the wild rice," the two men became animated. They were emphatic, no they said, "we are the people of the wild rice! They were here but we kicked their [---]! Yeah we kicked their [---], that was before you guys [white people] were here." So I guess I didn't need to read about the wild rice wars, I learned it orally.

This photo, taken by a National Park Service employee, illustrates Wikipedia's entry on the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

The Lost tribes theory is one aspect of Algonkian Church History that I've been somewhat neglectful of. In future posts, I will present evidence that at least some of the Stockbridge Mohicans believed that they were the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel (white people actually advanced that theory first and that is documented in some of my earlier posts). Anyway, when I first heard of the lost tribes theory it seemed ridiculous to me. But there are a few pieces of evidence that have made me seriously wonder about it lately. One is just the Algonkian word "Manomen." It is awfully close to the word "Manna." The special food that the Great Spirit gave to the Menominees sounds an awful lot like the special food that the Old Testament's God sent to the ancient Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness.

1 comment :

yishai said...

See this part of William Warren's history of the Ojibwe:

Some of the examples he gives are pretty vague, but I find it interesting that the elders said that book (the Bible) must be true because our ancestors have been telling us similar stories since the beginning of time!