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Virginia High students learn about the value of wild rice



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Students got to examine wild rice in the palms of their hands, as well as learn how to harvest and process it, during an event hosted by the Rock Ridge Indigenous Education Program staff.

Students got to examine wild rice in the palms of their hands, as well as learn how to harvest and process it, during an event hosted by the Rock Ridge Indigenous Education Program staff. Submitted photos.

VIRGINIA — On Friday, October 1, the Rock Ridge Indigenous Education Program (Virginia campus) invited students from Liam Conger’s U.S. history classes and Jade Andrie’s food and nutrition classes to learn about our favorite Minnesota staple: wild rice (it is called Manoomin in Ojibwemowin).

The students got to experience a little bit of what it is like to harvest and process wild rice. They even got to parch the rice themselves, and they quickly realized the skill and time it takes. “It was really interesting to learn about the entire process of getting wild rice from the lake to the table, I didn’t realize how much work goes into it,” said Siri Stocke, 11th grade student in Conger’s College in the Schools (CIS) American history class. “I thought it was really fun to try it out myself, and learn about a different culture. I would definitely do it again and maybe go ricing myself someday.”

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This was a great experience for the students to gain more understanding about the importance of wild rice to the Ojibwe people in our area and how we all benefit from keeping our waters healthy. “There is so much more to wild rice than people understand. It’s a special tradition that keeps connected to who we are as Anishinaabe people,” explained Zander Pete, 11th grade student in Conger’s U.S. studies class and also a Bois Forte Band member.

Two Virginia High School students are pictured above parching (slow roasting) wild rice. While doing so, the two students used a lifting motion to keep the kernels from burning. Submitted photos.

Two Virginia High School students are pictured above parching (slow roasting) wild rice. While doing so, the two students used a lifting motion to keep the kernels from burning.

“I love sharing my knowledge on my Ojibwe culture, and I am passionate about harvesting wild rice,” said Teresa Knife Chief, director of the Indigenous Education Program. “Bringing this event to Virginia High School was so much fun! Students were very engaged and seemed to love learning about this process. We look forward to doing more events like this.”

The social studies department and many other classes at Rock Ridge always find fun and educational opportunities to collaborate with the Indigenous Education Program. We love to be able to work inside numerous classrooms and mix Ojibwe culture into their lessons.

“The wild rice demonstration by the Rock Ridge Indigenous Education department was an excellent way for students to learn firsthand about the indigenous culture,” Conger said. “It also served as a crucial reminder that indigenous culture is not a relic of the past and that many in our local communities continue to practice and keep indigenous traditions and history alive.

“The social studies department at Rock Ridge is committed to including the history of all Americans, and the department has been a great resource in accomplishing this goal,” Conger continued. “I always know where to find help when I have questions regarding Indigenous culture. I look forward to future collaborations with the staff.”

Emily Jankila is the indigenous education coordinator at Rock Ridge Public Schools.

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