I wanted to find local wild rice to go with a venison roast we’re saving, but I haven’t had any luck. The wild rice in stores was cultivated in Northwestern Wisconsin or Minnesota.
Wild rice once grew abundantly along lakes and was a key staple to Native Americans, particularly the Ojibwa and Menominee. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Menominee took their name from the Indian word for wild rice, manomin, and were often referred to as the Wild Rice People by Europeans.
A state Department of Natural Resources Web site said there’s at least one lake within our 100-mile diet where wild rice grows — Lake Noquebay in Marinette County. But it doesn’t grow in amounts large enough for a commercial harvest, said warden supervisor Bob Goerlinger in Peshtigo. “It’s likely gone now, I think the blackbirds got it,” he said.
A wild rice community restoration project is being undertaken by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission in Odanah and the DNR. For those who want to sow wild rice, contact either agency for information on obtaining a permit to harvest seed for planting.
The photo with this entry is of Ojibwa Indian women gathering wild rice. It is from an oil painting by Seth Eastman, in a room of the House Committee on Military Affairs, Washington, D.C.