Caring for Ecosystems and Each Other

Brittany Luby (Editor), Margaret Lehman (Editor), Andrea Bradford (Editor), Samantha Mehltretter (Editor), Jane Mariotti (Editor)


Reclaiming crops and culture on Turtle Island

Manomin, more commonly known by its English misnomer “wild rice,” is the only cereal grain native to Turtle Island (North America). Long central to Indigenous societies and diets, this complex carbohydrate is seen by the Anishinaabeg as a gift from Creator, a “spirit berry” that has allowed the Nation to flourish for generations. Manomin: Caring for Ecosystems and Each Other offers a community-engaged analysis of the under-studied grain, weaving together the voices of scholars, chefs, harvesters, engineers, poets, and artists to share the plant’s many lessons about the living relationships between all forms of creation.

Grounded in Indigenous methodologies and rendered in full colour, Manomin reveals and examines our interconnectedness through a variety of disciplines—history, food studies, ethnobotany, ecology—and forms of expression, including recipes, stories, and photos. A powerful contribution to conversations on Indigenous food security and food sovereignty, the collection explores historic uses of Manomin, contemporary challenges to Indigenous aquaculture, and future possibilities for restoring the sacred crop as a staple.

In our time of ecological crisis, Manomin teaches us how to live well in the world, sustaining our relations with each other, our food, and our waterways.


“This book is absolutely amazing and one of the most original collections that I have read in many years. Intended for everyone who inhabits Turtle Island—Indigenous and settler alike—Manomin encourages readers to develop deeper relationships and understandings by listening to Elders and the land. I believe Manomin will transform Indigenous scholarship.”

Michael Dockry, University of Minnesota

“Manomin teaches us much; how to observe, the need for biodiversity, and the understanding that there will be rice somewhere else, on different years, based on water levels. Manomin has provided food during the harshest of times. We were told that we should care for our water and there would be rice. There are lakes where Manomin has been drowned by the state and provincial authorities, raising water levels for recreational boats. For many years the Mille Lacs band of Anishinaabe tried to get the water levels corrected for the rice to flourish on Onamia and Omeme Lakes. At one of those lakes, the water levels went down in a drought, and the Manomin returned, seventeen years later. At another lake it was fifty years later. The Manomin returned when the conditions were right. That reminds us, like this book, of the resilience of seeds, the resilience of life, and our agreement to care for all.

This book is a blessing of teachings and acknowledgment for the great gift of Manomin."

Winona LaDuke, To Be a Water Protector: Rise of the Wiindigoo Slayers

About the Authors

Brittany Luby, author of Dammed: The Politics of Loss and Survival in Anishinaabe Territory, is an award-winning historian and educator whose paternal ancestors originate from Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation. She is the English language author of two bilingual picture books that were illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley.

Margaret Lehman is a settler researcher who joined the Manomin Project in May 2019. Lehman is currently working on the land and caring for her plant relations in lands protected by the Dish with One Spoon Covenant.

Andrea Bradford obtained her PhD from Queen’s University and teaches Resources Engineering at the University of Guelph. She was awarded the Faculty Association Distinguished Professor Award for Innovation in Teaching in 2020.

Samantha Mehltretter is a Water Resources Engineer in Training. Her doctoral research, in collaboration with Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation, is looking at restoring manomin on the Upper Winnipeg River.

Jane Mariotti is a graduate from the University of Guelph with a BA in environmental science with a major in ecology. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in the same field.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

A Note on Language by Brittany Luby and Margaret Lehman

Introduction by Brittany Luby, Samantha Mehltretter, and Margaret Lehman with Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation

Ch.1 Manitou Gitaggan, the Great Spirit’s Garden by Kezhii’aanakwat Ron Kelly, Giizhiigokwe Sandra Indian, Patees Dorothy Copenace, and Kathi Avery Kinew

Ch.2 Migration by Edward Benton-Banai

Ch.3 Seeds and Soils by Victoria Jackson

Manomin and Bergamot by Sean Sherman

Ch.4 Manomin as Teacher by Brittany Luby with Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation

Images from Anishinaabe-Aki: Harvest

Ch.5 Relational Vocabularies by Joseph Pitawanakwat

Manomin, Berries, and Love by Michelle Johnson-Jennings, PhD

Ch.6 Environmental Change, Environmental Care by Samantha Mehltretter and Andrea Bradford with Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation

Images from Anishinaabe-Aki: The Seasons by Andrea Bradford

Ch.7 Disconnection by Hannah Tait Neufeld

Manomin and Mushrooms by Shane Chartrand

Ch.8 Treaty and Mushkiki by Jana-Rae Yerxa and Pikanagegaabo, William Yerxa

Ch.9 Promise by Kristi Leora Gansworth

Epilogue by Andrea Bradford and Brittany Luby

Appendix 1: A Recipe for Corn Soup

Appendix 2: A Note on Indigenous Language Rights

Glossary by Jane Mariotti



Selected Bibliography