White Earth Emphasizes Sacred Foods

Sep 15th, 1999 | By | Category: 11-1: 10th Anniversary Issue, Tribal College News

John Henry pulls the boat through the rice fields as Vickey Yellowearrings knocks the rice into the boat. Photo by Rocky Wilkinson, Fond du Lac Reservation

The Woodlands Confederacy of Colleges is building a holistic, culturally responsive, education program that they hope will reduce diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Last April, Dr. Ann Brummel spoke at the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota about wild rice and other sacred foods and the concepts behind the curriculum. Brummel is the development coordinator at the White Earth Tribal and Community College in Mahnomen, Minn.

In her presentation, Brummel stressed that the tribal college curriculum is centered in the sacred. Culture, environment, history, and family life courses deal with the harvesting of wild rice and the ceremonies in which wild rice has played a traditional role. Wild rice has been important to the Anishinabe people just as the buffalo has been central to the Lakota and the whale to Northwest cultures. Wild rice harvest camps teach young people about responsibility to the extended family. The rice was used along with tobacco in ceremonies as expressions of prayer.

Brummel pointed out that all peoples were at one time tribal peoples, relying on natural, unprocessed foods for healthy living and healing. By stressing respect for sacred foods such as wild rice, the Woodlands Confederacy of Colleges’ nutrition curriculum will be important for the general population as well as for Anishinabe people. During Agriculture Week presentations at the U.S. Capitol, White Earth contributed nearly 100 pounds of wild rice for distribution to visitors at the Woodlands Wisdom exhibit, one of 48 land grant college exhibits on display.

The Woodlands Wisdom Project was conceived by the tribal colleges at a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meeting in St. Louis in 1998. The confederacy includes six tribal colleges located in northern states: College of the Menominee Nation, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, Leech Lake Tribal College, White Earth, and Turtle Mountain Community College. Congress designated most of these colleges as land grant institutions in 1994. The colleges invited the University of Minnesota, a state land grant institution, to participate. Planning funds for the project were provided by the university’s Visions for Change Program, which is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The project is seeking funding from the USDA.

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