Roger LaBine’s Wild Rice Mini Camp September 2008 Michigan Tech AISES Chapter students and advisors were very fortunate to be able to attend Roger LaBine’s Wild Rice Mini Camp Workshop at Lac Vieux Desert on the weekend of September 26-28. We are very grateful to Roger, Charlie and many others from Lac Vieux Desert who so generously shared their knowledge, humor, food, and campfire with us. We had an absolutely unforgettable weekend. We are also thankful for the financial and organizational support of this camp by the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Michigan State University Extension (Barbara Barton, Zoologist), Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the U.S. Forest Service – Ottawa National Forest. WithMichigan Technological University American Indian Science and Engineering (AISES) Chapter
Roger LaBine, Lac Vieux Desert Band, demonstrates how to make cedar Ricing Stick - two are needed.
Alex Wrobel makes one of her Rice Sticks. Helene's are finished and she fills time beading.
Push Pole making station at Lac Vieux Desert October 2008 Wild Rice Camp. You can see a tamarack pole laying off the work space to the ground on right and a maple fork on the work space. These will be joined to make the canoe push pole.
Roger is making a split on the maple forked end for the Canoe Push Pole. Maple forks, which are durable are attached to cedar or tamarack poles. Cedar and Tamarack are lightweight so the pole is easier to push for a longer time.
Roger finishing a cut joint on a Push Pole fork. The tamarack pole will have a matching joint so the two pieces can be spliced together with dowels and twine.
Alex (r) learning how to make a push pole joint from Charlie (l) as he holds the pole steady.
Alex smoothes the push pole so that it doesn't snag on the hand as the canoe is pushed.
The maple fork is fastened with two wooden dowels to the tamarack pole. If the fork wears out, the dowels can be knocked out, the old fork removed, and a new one can be put in its place using the same pole.
David and Charlie are binding the tamarack pole to the maple fork after the dowels are in place. This is a two person job in order to get the binding very tight. The binding covers the dowels and strengthens the join. The lightweight tamarack pole with a sturdy maple fork combines ease and strength to go on long ricing runs.
Lori and Alex are smoothing their push pole so that it will not catch on their gloves as they push their canoe through the rice bed.
Alex and Lori preparing to Rice. PFDs are on, Alex has her Rice Sticks and the canoe and Push Pole are ready. They will paddle to the bed then push gently through the rice with the pole, using the rice sticks to bend and stroke the rice into the canoe. Only the ripe rice will fall into the canoe and the rest will be left to ripen.
Lori and Alex racing to the rice beds. Note the push pole resting across Alex’s lap and over the right end of the canoe.
Michigan Tech and Ferris students on edge of one of the rice beds. There was friendly competition to see who would come back to camp with the largest quantity of wild rice.
Paddling to the rice beds; Jess and Kelsey are in the canoe in the foreground.
Lori and Alex with their load of rice. It is so full, they are lucky to have made it back without sinking. : )
Lori and Alex showing their tools and rice. Lots of work is ahead drying, parching, dancing on the rice to remove hulls, winnowing, and cleaning and sorting the rice before it can be cooked and eaten.
Fresh, raw, wild rice. It must now dry for about 3 days, be parched to loosen the chaff, be danced on in a pit to further loosen the chaff, be winnowed to remove the chaff, be picked clean and sorted.
Helene preparing a fire for the parching. Roger has already set two forks into the ground on either side of the fire. There is a metal rod to brace the pot against. The pot will be on an angle partly over the fire so the rice can be stirred over and out of the heat. The rice mustn’t burn but the chaff must brown and loosen.
David takes a turn parching the rice. Rice is swirled with the paddle so that it hits the hot side of the pot and then falls back to the side off of the fire. This browns and dries the chaff without burning the rice.
Helene dancing the rice. After parching, rice is placed in a small tarp-lined pit (about 2 feet around and 18” deep). Roger placed poles for the dancer to brace themselves on while stepping and twisting on top of the rice to loosen the chaff. Moccasins are worn (not shoes) as they are soft soled and will not break the rice kernels. Moccasins get very dusty but when finished dancing, the dust bangs loose easily.
Rice after parching and dancing: you can see the browned rice kernels amongst the fluffy, straw-like chaff. The chaff, at this point, feels very silky.
David tries his hand at winnowing. Much laughter filled the camp as we all learned this is more difficult than it looks!
The parched and winnowed rice is picked clean of sand and debris. It is sieved with the broken bits set aside for casseroles and soup and the whole sieved rice packaged up.