By KAREN HOPPER USHER
Capital News Service
LANSING — After decades of leaving wild rice management to Native American tribes, state officials are gearing up to track how some government agencies handle wild rice issues. Wild rice, or manoomin, is a seed that is a traditional food for many Native Americans. The plant grows in shallow water, and wild rice stands are peppered in various, often hush-hush, locations throughout the state. A misconception exists that wild rice was never important in Michigan, said Barb Barton, an endangered species consultant from Lansing who is writing a book about wild rice in Michigan.“There actually was a lot of wild rice here prior to the logging era and European colonization.Tribes have been bringing back wild rice stands, undertaking restoration projects that consist of re-seeding historic wild rice beds over several years.”
Doing so requires the collaboration of several state agencies, said Roger LaBine, a traditional ricer with the Lac Vieux Desert Band in the Upper Peninsula. Until now, there’s been little oversight or communication among state agencies about wild rice work.