202 — Harvesting Wild Rice—White Earth Ojibwe Land Recovery Project

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Each fall, the Ojibwe tribes of northern Minnesota harvest wild rice by hand. It’s a long process that begins with families in canoes venturing into the tall grasses, where rice is poled and gently brushed with knockers into the bed of the canoe. We journey to White Earth Reservation, out onto Big Rice Lake in a canoe, to see how one tribe is supporting itself and changing the diet of its people through community kitchen projects.

And we talk with the founder of White Earth Land Recovery Project, Ojibwe leader, Winona LaDuke, about the land, her fight to save wild rice, GMOs, her family, philosophy, and her candidacy for vice president of the United States on the Green Party ticket with Ralph Nader.

LaDuke is an Ojibwe leader, writer, food activist, rural development economist, environmentalist, Harvard graduate —and a force to be reckoned with. She’s the executive director of Honor the Earth, and most recently she was a leader at Standing Rock fighting the Dakota Access pipeline.

When we visited Winona on the White Earth Reservation in 2004 for our Hidden Kitchens story Harvest on Big Rice Lake she spoke to us about her family, her life and work—and about how her Ojibwe father met her bohemian/artist/Jewish mother in New York City, how her dad went on to Hollywood to star in the Westerns and how he later became the New Age spiritual leader called Sun Bear.

Born in Los Angeles and raised in Oregon, Winona moved to White Earth, her father’s reservation, after she graduated from Harvard in 1982. When she first arrived, she worked as the principal of the Reservation’s high school and became active in local issues. Seven years later, she started the non profit White Earth Land Recovery Project, dedicated to restoring the local economy and food systems and preserving wild rice.

Today Winona LaDuke operates a 40-acre industrial hemp farm on the White Earth Indian Reservation with the idea of creating textiles for the people and the planet — of working towards a non petroleum based future. And she’s started 8th Fire Solar, operated by Anishinaabe, manufacturing solar thermal panels.

“According to Anishinaabe prophecies, we are in the time of the Seventh Fire. At this time, it is said we have a choice between a path that is well-worn and scorched, and a path that is green and unworn. If we move toward the green path, the Eighth Fire will be lit and people will come together to make a better future.”

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