Climate Change Threatens the Ancient Wild Rice Traditions of the Ojibwe
Yields of native wild rice have shrunk due to temperature rise, shoreline erosion and other environmental problems
The Ojibwe people of modern-day Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin have for 1,000 years adhered to a spiritual prophecy to live “where food grows on the water.”
That food is native wild rice, or “manoomin” in the Anishinaabe language of the Ojibwe.
But with an increasingly unpredictable climate across the “Five Freshwater Seas,” as the Great Lakes are known, the Ojibwe’s ancient wild rice traditions are being undermined.
So is the prophecy that ordained it.
“We are here to honor our spirit relatives, which includes all creation. Wild rice is considered sacred,” said Eric Chapman Sr., a council member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and director of the Wisconsin tribe’s wild rice cultural enhancement program.
The word “Chippewa,” imprinted on the Ojibwe in 19th-century treaties with the United States, is not favored by the tribe, whose origins lie with the Algonquin tribes of North America’s eastern forests.
The Ojibwe were among several Algonquin tribes to migrate to the Great Lakes after the first of the “Seven Fires Prophecies” warned that the tribe would be destroyed by an invader from the sea. That invader is widely interpreted to be Europeans, according to Chapman.
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