Manoomin (Wild Rice)

Manoomin, also known as wild rice (Zizania palustris), is a species of grain-producing grass native to the Great Lakes area and portions of Canada. It grows in the shallow, quiet waters of inland lakes and slow-flowing streams. Once plentiful in places like northern Michigan, manoomin populations have dwindled due to habitat loss, degraded water quality, and other factors.

Manoomin is an imiportant food source and cultural touchpoint for the Anishnaabe people. Manoomin translates to “the good berry” in Ojibwe. Wherever possible, Ojibwe communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan have retained their connections to this important plant, and many continue to cultivate and harvest manoomin each year. Learn more about the rich history and heritage of manoomin in this brochure from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), which represents eleven Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan: click to open PDF

In recent years, tribal groups and partners have worked to bolster wild rice populations so future generations can continue harvesting and enjoying this important natural and cultural resource. See the sidebar to learn more about Michigan Sea Grant’s involvement in one of these projects.

Manoomin education and outreach for Lake Superior audiences

The Michigan Wild Rice Initiative (MWRI) is a collaboration of the State of Michigan and the twelve federally recognized tribes within Michigan.

Michigan Sea Grant is a member of the MWRI outreach and education subcommittee. The goal of the outreach project is to raise awareness about manoomin, how to harvest it properly, and how to protect it from activities associated with recreational water use and lakeshore property ownership. Michigan Sea Grant has contributed by designing a logo for MWRI, attending and presenting at annual Michigan Wild Rice Summits, and providing design support for various education and outreach materials.

In 2019, Michigan Sea Grant staff traveled to Alberta, Michigan, to participate in Manoomin Camp, an annual event that celebrates the harvesting, sowing, and processing of manoomin. Click here to explore a Flickr album of photos from the camp.