On September 28th and 29th SDI Research Assistant Marie Schaefer had the the honor of traveling with five other Anishinaabe from Michigan to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota for the fourth Niibii Miinwa Manoomin Symposium hosted by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the University of Minnesota. The symposium takes place every two years and brings together Tribes in the Great Lakes and Universities to work on manoomin (wild rice) and niibii (water) issues. Presentations, ceremonies and working group breakouts allowed the participants to focus on the relevant tasks related to the work needed to be done for manoomin and niibii.
The first day of the symposium started with an invocation, a song by the Timber Trails drum followed by a women’s water ceremony. Then one of the conference organizers, Dr. Jill Doerfler from the University of Minnesota Duluth, reviewed the six year history of the symposium and the theme of the current symposium – “creating new pathways to a shared future”. There has been a history of extractive research done by the University of Minnesota on manoomin and this symposium has been a way to heal that relationship with the Tribes and with the manoomin by seeking solutions to problems through collaboration.
The University of Minnesota administrators had a panel and discussed things such as “it is very hard to if you didn’t grow up [harvesting wild rice] to understand the importance of it” for Indigenous peoples. They also recognized that these conversations “are not simple or comfortable to have” but they are necessary. The Anishinaabe and other Native Americans on the next panel spoke of the difficulties of trying to represent an ancestor like manoomin that not only can’t speak for itself but is also not considered a relative by non-native researchers.
The participants at the symposium were also able to learn from other Indigenous peoples on their own struggles and fights to revitalize their ways. Jerry Konanui from Hawaii presented his people’s struggle to protect taro to which they have a similar relationship as the Anishinaabe, Menominee and manoomin relationship. The second day Sharon Kinley from the Northwest Indian College and Tom Sampson from Tsartlip First Nation in Canada shared the Lummi model of cultural reclamation that resulted in a beautiful Coast Salish Institute. Sharon reminded the participants that “revitalization needs to originate from within”. Tom also reminded us that, “the power of the people is there but you have to do it; you can’t depend on anyone else to do it”.
The Anishinaabe participants from Michigan came away from the symposium with a renewed purpose and contacts from people that work on front lines of protecting manoomin that can help to work on the revitalization of manoomin in Michigan.